Indonesia: Govt opens global peatland research center in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 8 Jun 16;

The Peatland Restoration Agency ( BRG ) is turning the Meranti Islands and Bengkalis regencies in Riau into centers of global tropical peatland restoration research. A number of agencies and local and foreign universities have been invited to do research as part of an effort to protect peatland in Riau, which covers a total area of 5.7 million hectares.

BRG head Nazir Foead said implementation of the research center commenced through cooperation with a number of universities and institutions in Japan, such as Kyoto University, Hokkaido University, the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature ( RIHN ), the Japan International Cooperation Agency ( JICA ) and the National Institute of the Humanities ( NIHU ).

At the local level, BRG is cooperating with 11 universities, eight of which are located in provinces on Sumatra and in Kalimantan that have peatland and are prone to forest and land fires.

“The sharing of knowledge is expected to provide the best solution and formulation for peatland restoration,” Nazir said recently on the sidelines of the Peatland Restoration and Fire Prevention joint symposium.

He said universities are special entities involved in social change that have the ability to encourage the restoration of a strong social movement. “Restoration efforts through improved management of peatland, covering ecological, economic and social improvement, need in-depth research as well as joint action from the academic society,” he added.

Riau has been picked as a research center because almost half of the areas targeted by the government for restoration are found in the oil-producing province.

“Of the target of 2 million hectares of peatland to be restored, 900,000 hectares are in Riau, which has the largest peatland area compared to other provinces. That’s why experts and academics are invited to disseminate and apply their knowledge for peatland protection,” said Nazir.

Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman, asked the BRG to focus on developing native peatland commodity crops in accordance with the culture of the surrounding community.

“Sago plants are very suitable and their hydrological area reaches 83,0000 hectares. In addition to restoring peatland, sago also has economic value for the local community,” he said.

Although newly started, he expressed confidence that peatland restoration in Riau, the biggest sago producer in Indonesia, could be achieved in the next five to six years. According to him, Riau is currently able to benefit from 5 percent of its sago production, while the rest is sold to Cirebon, West Java.

“So, now we must think about upstream production. The Riau provincial administration has been making efforts to promote and popularize sago as an alternative staple food and encourage sago-based products, such as noodles, cookies and sago rice,” he said.

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