Long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader - Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR giving a short introduction on political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader – Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR giving a short introduction on political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Since 1990s South East Asia has been facing the issue of trans-boundary haze and 2015 is considered among the worst ever. This is an inevitable phenomena as palm oil industry is booming and is anticipated to grow to $88 billion by 2022 and Indonesia is the main regional player of this industry. 

We have understand the effects of haze on environment, health and socio-economics. These issues are ongoing with trans-boundary haze. With all the experts at the forum today, are we able to find the long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Here are some highlights sharing from each expert:

Intro: Understanding the root causes of political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader – Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR

In 2015, forest fires have caused about 2.6 million ha of land burnt with more than 30 billion dollars of economic losses. 43 million of Indonesians were exposed to haze and half million of people became victims of acute respiratory infections with 19 people reported death.

Some important key points on the root causes of political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia:-

  • Tenure and illegal land market
  • Bad practices of agricultural and plantation development – Interestingly wood plantations are manage by group while oil palm plantations are managed by individual companies.
  • Land politics: Patronage network between business and government – When it comes to land politics, corporate actors are connected to elites at various levels.
  • Land politics for local elections – Hot spots is linked to election. Local elites/cukong who organize farmers are the most influential actors in land transaction.

Q. Are Smallholders to be blame for forest fires and haze in Indonesia?

Mansuetus Alsy Hanu – National coordinator, Indonesia’s Palm Oil Smallholder Union

Smallholders are owners who own the land under 25ha and they manage the land on their own. In Indonesia, there are a total of 60% of the 48,000 are smallholders.Smallholders tend to be in difficult position when it comes to prepare plantation. For now, fire (aka ‘slash and burn’ method’) is the cheapest method to prepare plantation.

Regarding forest fires and haze, smallholders may not be the main cause of it. Smallholders do not receive benefits to convert their crops to palm oil plantation and they do not get assistance or any protection by government locally and nationally.

In terms of solution of reducing forest fires, Mansuetus proposed the need of better mapping for smallholders’ land. There is also a need of strong establishment of relationship between government and smallholders. The government could provide incentives to smallholders who do not use fires to prepare their plantations as an attractive income for the smallholder..

Q. From NGO Perspective: What are the challenges in resolving this Issue?

Jatna Supriatna, Chairman of Research Centre for Climate Change, University of Indonesia.

While getting himself involved in non-governmental organization for 15-20 years. Jatna thinks the problem in dealing with forest fires for the past 20 year is the budget. The budget from government is not easy to be accessible for forest fire issues.

“To monitor the hot spots, there is no budget to access the peatland areas. Fire in the peatland is easily spread – underneath. Go widely. It is very important that we are working in many different form. it is always the dry season we have to be ready. In Indonesia, local governments do not have fire brigade but trucks. We really need to have collaboration with local government and private sectors” says Jatna.

Jatna also highlighted the importance of law enforcement in public area and national protected areas as forest fires occurred in these areas are caused by encroachment.

Q. What can Private Sectors do to prevent forest fires and haze?

Dharsono Hartono, president director of PT Rimba Makmur Utama, Indonesia proposed the key to prevent forest fires and haze is to establish trust among various stakeholders via bottom-up approach.

Forest fires tend to occur in conjunction with El Nino. During El Nino, the canals from east to west of Indonesia will dry up. After the projection of terrible El Nino by NASA in 2007, PT Rimba Makmur Utama has immediately engaged and worked closely with the 6 villages (200 people) to prevent forest fires and haze.

Awareness, trust and transparency are the key values to promote full participation from the communities. Other than providing education to the villagers, PT Rimba decided to go beyond the boundary by training a brigade team prevent and combat forest fires and haze.

Q. The world demanded Palm Oil. What about the Supply Chains of Oil Palm Plantations? Aren’t they also responsible for forest fires?

Agus Purnomo – Managing Director for sustainability and strategic stakeholders Engagement, Golden Agri-Resources, Ltd.

As Indonesia is the largest oil palm producers in the world, supply chains around world are also responsible for forest fires and haze. According to Purnomo, it is common to have problematic growers / companies within the supply chains. In order to prevent this, Golden Agri-Resources is focusing on establishing transparency with their suppliers.Thus far, they have 98% of the mills willing to share their suppliers info and by Dec 2015, they will have 100% visibility of the mills. However, it is difficult to acquire transparency and visibility beyond the mills and these mills source their resources from others.

“All our supply chains are posted on the website. We do not know the particular mill bought by another group. That is something we cannot know before. If we know, we will engage. We will have dialogue and see how we move forward.” says Purnomo.

Golden Agri-Resources is focusing on B2B arrangement. However, policies cause a lot of issues as mentioned by Herry. There is an urging need in getting all stakeholders to be involved to resolve such issue. From government, to local stakeholders, NGOs, companies who are involved in the supply chain. We need to formulate a common goal, better transparency in order to prevent forest fires and haze.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.

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