Community fire resilience in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

4 Apr, 2017 | Working on Fire

Working on Fire International, through Kishugu’s New Markets division, is currently busy with its eighth project in Indonesia. This follows on the very successful study tour of Indonesian government officials to Working on Fire’s operations in South Africa late last year.

Kishugu NPC’s Guy Deacon and Val Charlton visited Indonesia in January 2017 to carry out the first phase of a United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) contract to introduce Integrated Fire Management (IFM) concepts into Central Kalimantan.

“We were tasked with initiating conversation, scoping current practices and readiness in six pilot villages in the Pulang Pisau District of Indonesia, then facilitating the role-players in a workshop to establish an IFM Forum for the district,” says Guy. “We were privileged to meet and work with communities and officials throughout the project area, who welcomed us and made us feel immediately ‘at home’.”

Kalimantan is ‘water rich’. People live alongside wide rivers and depend on these for their livelihoods. There are few roads; villages are remote with mostly motorbikes and boats being used for transport. “Although their ecosystem is very different to ours, there are many similarities between rural South Africa and Indonesia when it comes down to family structure, livelihoods, poverty, resilience, and a strong dependence on well-functioning natural systems for all of these,” said Val Charlton. “Balancing the development needs of the people, with the need for ecosystem protection and resilience, is a challenge seen everywhere.”

“The Indonesians have a saying that loosely translates to ‘same same… but different’. What a pleasure to be part of the same, with just a little difference”.

The UNOPS GAMBUT (Generating Anticipatory Measures for Better Utilization of Tropical Peatlands) Project focuses on protecting the rich peatlands of Indonesia. In recent years, the conversion of huge areas from indigenous tropical swamp forest to agriculture has created a landscape prone to wildfire.
The agricultural practice of using fire to clear land has resulted in catastrophic fires and unhealthy toxic air pollution that affects large parts of the ASEAN region during the fire season. The peat, a precious source of carbon storage that has global significance, takes millennia to build up, but once burning, is very difficult to contain and extinguish, as the fire goes underground. The protection of the peatlands and reducing wildfires in Indonesia is a global concern.

Working on Fire’s Trevor Wilson:
“We have always said that the science of Fire is the same all over the world, but we are realising more and more that there is another science that is the same – and it is people. Everyone speaks different languages, and has different cultures, but the core need of any people is exactly the same. Everyone needs to feel safe (in our case, against wildfires), have food in their tummies (the cause for them, to need to burn, to clear the lands to plant crops) and provide for their children.”

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