APRIL Group Extends Successful Fire Free Village Programme in Riau
APRIL Group has announced the extension of its successful Fire Free Village Programme at an official event held in Pangkalan, Kerinci on Saturday, 30 January 2016.
Attended by more than 500 guests, including Riau government and law enforcement officials and community leaders, the company confirmed that this year’s programme will extend to 20 villages with 11 new villages joining the nine villages that participated in 2015.
The company also announced that the extended Fire Free Village Programme is to be supported by a new complementary community awareness initiative called Fire Aware Community, to be rolled out across another 55 villages, further contributing to efforts to prevent forest fires in Riau Province.
Addressing guests, APRIL Group Managing Director Indonesia Operations, Tony Wenas, pledged an additional US$1 million on top of the company’s existing investment in fire suppression capability to support the programme expansion. This equates to an investment of approximately US$30,000 per Fire Free Village Programme participant and US$5,000 per Fire Aware Community village.
The extension acknowledges the success of the 2015 programme that effectively engaged with 9 local communities and reduced the burnt area by over 90% from 2014 to 2015. This decline was consistent with low fire rates in Riau overall, reflecting the effective collaboration and coordination between community leaders, government, businesses and NGOs.
In particular, the 2015 programme contributed to a significant reduction in fires surrounding the Kampar Peninsula. This has been credited to a combination of factors — early detection, active suppression and the focus on root-cause prevention through the Fire Free Village Programme. APRIL Group aims to build on this effort and is focused on zero fires in 2016.
The Fire Free Village Programme includes five elements designed to achieve a long-term solution to fire and haze. Villages that remain fire free receive infrastructure grants and are supported by community fire crew leadership training, assistance in sustainable agricultural alternatives, community awareness and education, and air quality monitoring. The programme reflects the company’s view that fire prevention is the most effective long-term solution for the fire and haze issue.
This year’s programme adds the recognition of the smaller-scale agriculture requirements of some communities and increases the level of engagement with community fire crew leaders, acknowledging their significant influence on community fire management. The Fire Free Village Programme will continue to work closely with NGO Rumah Pohon and seek to establish further civil society support throughout the year.
The new Fire Aware Community component is designed as an entry-level phase to engage with communities and provide a background on fire management and fire prevention. It will provide seasonal support for fire suppression, as well as a broader communication strategy with specific community groups. It is envisaged that the next cohort of Fire Free Village Programme participants will come from this group.