In our continuing series on GAR’s long-term forest fire prevention initiative – Desa Siaga Api, we take a look at how a variety of tactical approaches are being implemented on the ground through our collaboration with local communities.
To deal with the immediate impacts and health hazards of fires and haze, PT SMART Tbk. (our plantation arm) is increasing its outreach and awareness programmes in the villages which are taking part in the Desa Siaga Api programme. These programmes are targeted at the most vulnerable groups in the community such as women, children and the elderly.
Sohriah, a housewife and mother who lives in one of the villages in Ketapang, West Kalimantan welcomed the awareness programme, recalling how terrible the haze was in 2015, “Everything was difficult. Low visibility, breathing was difficult, transportation was badly affected. In short, we had a very hard time.”
Our community engagement teams are going to 22 schools in Ketapang and running educational programmes for school children and the general community that will focus on several aspects such as causes of fire, hazards of fire and simple steps to prevent fire.
Our employee facilitating educational activities on fire prevention for school children at PT AMNL, West Kalimantan
Making learning fun with interactive activities on the prevention of forest fires
In addition, Sohriah believes the men in the village can do more to set a good example for their children when it comes to protecting the environment and tackling fires. In particular, she wants them to be less careless with fire hazards such as cigarette butts as many fires are accidentally started by people throwing lit cigarette butts on dry and flammable vegetation. She adds people also need to be careful with open fires, “When cooking out in the open, they need to ensure the fire is completely put out.”
Crucially, these awareness raising sessions are also used to highlight the importance of non-burning methods to clear land. “We’re raising awareness of this issue in order to protect the environment. We underline the hazards and harm that land and forest fires do to our students,” said Bobo, principal of the Eka Tjipta Kayung Elementary School. He hopes that by understanding the negative impacts of forest fires, the community will understand that traditional methods such as slash-and-burn should not be practiced and that mindsets will start to change.
Tackling the root causes of forest fires is a complex and time-consuming task, but through Desa Siaga Api, GAR has started working together with the community on a series of steps that will hopefully start to make a real difference on the ground.