Preventing forest fires and haze in Indonesia requires cooperation at the community level, which is why Asian Agri launched its Fire-Free Village Program (FFVP) in 2016.
FFVP is a response to the problem of annual fires, which destroy forest, damage the environment and cause haze which can lead to health problems across the region.
Fire has traditionally been used by local communities as a cost-effective way of clearing land for farming, but during the dry season these fires can quickly spread out of control.
FFVP aims to work with local communities to raise awareness of the dangers and provide them with economically-viable alternatives to the use of fire.
The program began in 2016 with nine villages in the Riau and Jambi areas of Sumatra, Indonesia, reducing the amount of land affected by fire from 13.75 hectares the year before to just 7.98 hectares.
Based on this success, in 2017 the program was expanded to cover 16 villages.
A key component of the program is the No Burn Village Rewards, which provides economic incentives in the form of grants for community infrastructure for villages that successfully prevent fire on their land. The community can choose how to spend the money, with past recipients funding the construction of roads, bridges and places of worship.
Participating villages that completely prevent fire are awarded IDR100 million, with a partial reward of IDR50 million given to villages who limit burning to under one hectare. Villages that fail to keep fire below this level are not eligible for a reward.
The FFVP team also works with local communities to educate them on the dangers of using fire, and provides heavy equipment to enable villagers to clear farming land without resorting to burning. As this method is significantly more expensive than the use of fire, it would otherwise be out of reach of many communities.
The team itself is largely made up of local people, with a Village Crew Leader selected from among the local community. Forming a partnership is essential to making fire prevention a community effort, rather than something that is imposed from outside.
In 2016 Asian Agri became one of the founding members of the Fire-Free Alliance (FFA), which brings together multiple forestry and agriculture companies to cover more than 200 villages, covering at least 1.5 million hectares of land in various parts of Indonesia.
The FFA is dedicated to supporting the Indonesian Government’s commitment to a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.
Asian Agri was one of the pioneers in fire prevention, introducing a zero-burning policy back in 1994.