On March 15th, Aurelie Charmeau, our director of Research and Ground solutions, went to attend the Responsible Business Forum in Jakarta. There, she was representing PM.Haze at the Fire Free Alliance (FFA) meeting where they launched their first annual report.
What is the Fire Free Alliance?
The FFA was launched on 29 February 2016 and is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder platform comprising forestry and agriculture companies, NGOs and other concerned partners keen to contribute to a solution to Indonesia’s persistent fire and haze problems with a focus on fire prevention through community engagement. Founding members include APRIL, Asian Agri, IDH, Musim Mas, PM.Haze, and Wilmar. Joined in 2017 by new members Sime Darby and IOI Group, FFA has fostered a culture of sharing, trust and collaboration amongst its members and a members’ based information-sharing platform (www.FireFreeAlliance.org).
When the alliance started in 2015, the prevention programmes counted only 9 villages, involved in APRIL’s Fire Free Village Programme (FFVP). In 2016, FFA managed to reach 218 villages in various parts of Indonesia. Of these, 77 villages signed up with FFA members for intensive fire-free programmes in 2016. In some cases, FFA members have reported reductions in fire incidences of between 50% and 90% from 2015 to 2016.
What is the role of NGOs in fire prevention?
Fire prevention is about mitigating fire-prone conditions at a landscape level. Water and fire don’t stop at property boundaries. This is why all stakeholders must collaborate: companies, government and local communities. Because local communities are often lacking awareness and capacity, because companies are not everywhere and because Indonesia is so big that even the government is lacking capacity for enforcement, the role of NGOs is to fill the gap. NGOs can support the companies and government in the implementation of their programmes. They can drive and support sustainable community development projects, including those that do not have the support of companies or the government. NGOs can also bring awareness of fire prevention and alternative livelihood to local communities and rally public support for such efforts. In addition, some NGOs provide independent ground to monitor and verify what the companies are doing, supporting the government in its monitoring role.
Why did PM.Haze decide to join FFA?
The Haze and environmental crisis in general are very depressing topics. We want to create a positive movement by looking at the solutions to the Haze issue such as responsible consumption and sustainable community development. We believe that landscape and multi-stakeholders approaches are essential, and FFA provides a learning and sharing platform for best practices, stories and a sense of togetherness.
We are not part of FFA to monitor but to learn about the solutions to prevent fires on the ground and the challenges faced, allowing us to have a more realistic expectation of progress. We also have our own ground projects and being in FFA gives us a bigger perspective. Indeed, our projects are led by NGOs and local communities when most of FFA projects are led by companies. Because the actors are different, their goals differ as well as the challenges faced and, consequently, the solutions and project implementations are different. This is a very good learning experience.
The FFA members’ programmes
APRIL: 18 villages participating in FFVP in 2016 with a further 50 villages in a precursor Fire Aware Communities programme. Programme to continue in 2017 with 9 new villages enlisted while 9 others, into their third year, graduate to ‘fire resilient communities’. 600,000 ha covered by programme, with just 0.07% of this area damaged by fire in 2016.
Asian Agri: 7 villages in Riau plus 2 in Jambi participating in programme evaluation since October 2016, with the programme expanding by 6 more villages in 2017. Just 6.78 ha of 306,664 ha burnt in 2016, with burnt area reduced by over 50% from the 13.75 ha burnt in 2015. Piloting fire free honey initiative with Segati Village to test market support for fire free-labelled products.
IDH: Will continue to support the CPO Fund to develop 5 villages and also develop 1 fire free village directly in a high-risk area, and engaging all 6 in the awareness raising programme element. 2017 goals also include identifying 109 villages for possible inclusion in a Fire Free Programme.
IOI Group: Implemented high conservation stock assessments, peatland mapping and initial peatland restoration in 2016. Recruited 50 people for Fire Awareness Training (FAT) through Manggala Agni Pontianak to ‘Prevent and Patrol’ in concession and conservation areas till 2020. In 2017, a further 60 people will receive training under FAT. IOI also plans to expand the no-burning farming plan with communities to 4 villages with 32 participants.
Musim Mas: 71 villages engaged in Fire Free Awareness campaign in 2016, covering 500,000 ha. A community infrastructure reward of 25M rupiah (nearly USD 2,000) available for villages remaining fire free for one year. 5 villages will engage in a closer engagement with a comprehensive community fire free programme in 2017.
PM.Haze: Launched canal blocking project and RSPO certified oil campaign for restaurants in Singapore. In 2017, PM.Haze plans to organise new trips to Sungai Tohor village on Tebing Tinggi Island in Indonesia to support the Hydrological Restoration programme with the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) and led by WAHLI a local non-government organisation.
Sime Darby: Implemented ‘Fire Prevention through Sustainable Farming Practices’ programme in 4 villages in 2016, covering an area of 17,158 ha working alongside University of Riau (UNRI), where survey of 280 local farmers showed that 76.63% engaged in slash and burn. Fire occurrences were reduced from 40 hotspots in 2013-2014 to 1 hotspot in 2015-2016. In 2017, further programmes are planned with 4 additional villages in Riau with UNRI and also a further 7 villages in South Kalimantan with University of Lambung Mangkurat (UNLAM).
Wilmar: Socialised ‘Fire-Free Community’ programme to 61 villages in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan in 2016. 1.39 ha of planted area and 67.15 ha of unplanted area burnt in 2016, representing an improvement of approximately 90% on previous years. 2017 goal is to halve the mean average incidence of fires from 2011-2015 in Indonesia plantations and reduce fires in the buffer areas 5km beyond plantation boundaries.