The annual dry season in Indonesia takes place between the months of August and October. During this period, the risk of land and forest fires often increase, resulting in haze. There is a gamut of reasons for how these fires are started – dry weather, land-clearing for agriculture, littering of flammable items… the list goes on. In recent years however, forest fires have become synonymous with palm oil (although it is not always the reason for it) because of the rise in unethical land-clearing to make way for this valuable commodity.
Having established a Zero Burning Policy in 1997, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) has been working with its partners to implement sustainable palm oil practices, in order to manage occurrences of these fires and avoid a repeat of the haze disaster in 2015.
GAR has also invested a substantial amount of time and resources into setting up a robust reporting system. This includes daily monitoring of hotspots, setting up standard operating procedures (SOPs) for fire prevention and handling, educating employees on the ground on these SOPs, and teaching them how to create standardised fire reports. Good fire reporting is essential, as it can help in faster response times in sending aid, better fire containment, and transparency in reasons for fire. Our Sustainability Dashboard is updated regularly to give clarity on these occurrences.
Our operation units ensure fires do not go unnoticed, and are managed with the correct protocol. In each unit, there is a Regional Sustainability Palm Oil Officer (SPO) or Field Sustainability Implementation Manager (FSIM) who is responsible for their concession’s fire reporting. They are assisted by Regional Surveyor who handles accurate ground verification using Global Positioning System (GPS). They work closely with the Emergency Response Team and HO Command Centre for implementation of best practices in the concessions.
With the increased emphasis placed on fire reporting and alertness, employees are more proactive than ever, patrolling the concessions twice daily in order to look out for any fire occurrences that are not reflected in the hotspot monitoring.
GAR is currently mapping areas vulnerable to fire in order to be better prepared. Prioritising the areas where we are carrying out our Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA) programme, our team is using extensive data from hotspot monitoring and additional components such as amount of rainfall, soil type and land use. With that, we can allocate resources to areas which are more vulnerable to occurrences and decide on what kind of tailored programmes to roll out in each region, depending on risk profile.