Fire-free Communities Acknowledged, as Fire Free Village Program Celebrates Anniversary
Representatives from 15 Riau communities gathered at Sultan Syarief Haroen Setia Negara Airport Kerinci, Riau, on Thursday 26 July to formally receive infrastructure grants totaling up to 100 million rupiah (approximately USD 7,000) each, awarded as part of APRIL’s Fire Free Village Program.
Attended by the Vice Governor of Riau, Wan Thamrin Hasyim, as well as community, local government representatives and officials, the ceremony marked the conclusion of the program’s fourth year since its establishment in 2014. In that time, the Fire Free Village Program (FFVP) has partnered directly with 27 villages, spanning an area totaling 622,112 hectares across Riau Province to advance a fire free landscape.
A further 50 villages and 212 schools have participated in an education-based Fire Aware Communities program.
This year’s recipients added to the success of the program, which has significantly reduced incidences of fire. Independent advisory body, Carbon Conservation, reported that the program has supported an overall reduction of 97% in burnt land since 2014, while the area of burnt land decreased from 390.6 hectares in 2016 to 159.3 hectares in 2017.
This represents a reduction of 42.6% and a fraction of the total area covered by the project’s total coverage area. The FFVP’s program elements have since been adopted by other companies in association with the Fire Free Alliance.
“We are proud to have pioneered this program in support of the local government and in partnership with village leaders. Its continued success and adoption demonstrates that the program is an effective way to educate, build capability and incentivize communities to tackle fire and haze in Indonesia”, said Sihol Aritonang, President Director, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (PT RAPP).
The Fire Free Village Program was devised in response to the devastating annual fire seasons, culminating in the 2015 crisis. The idea behind the program was to complement the company’s investments in putting out fires with community-focused prevention strategies to achieve a long-term solution to the perennial fire issue.
The FFVP is made up of three key stages. The Fire Aware Communities stage focuses on creating awareness and understanding of the importance of fire prevention among communities with a focus on schools and community groups. The second stage focuses on educating, equipping and supporting villages to adopt safer agricultural practices. This stage also includes the offer of economic rewards and other assistance towards community infrastructure projects in return for no burning.
The third stage of the program helps villages to achieve Fire Resilient Community status. When villages graduate from the FFVP, they continue to work as community leaders in Riau and encouraging the need for the cooperation to prevent the return of hazardous land clearing with fire.
In addition to the focus on fire prevention, APRIL has developed a world-class fire suppression capability that includes helicopters equipped with expert fire crews, water bombing, fire trucks, airboats as well as teams on the ground that are rapidly deployed to contain and extinguish fires when detected, using 215 water pumps.