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Desa Siaga Api: Collaborating with indigenous peoples to prevent forest fires in Indonesia


Reaching out and working with a wide group of stakeholders is crucial when tackling the thorny problem of forest fires in Indonesia.

GAR’s Desa Siaga Api programme aims to do that by collaborating with everyone who is impacted by forest fires and haze on the ground. This includes not just the village communities and local government but the indigenous groups that live in fire-prone areas as well.

Datuk Lawai, the Chief of Dayak Ketapang tribe in PT AMNL in West Kalimantan, says the programme is on the right track. He gave the thumbs up for a recent community awareness session on the hazards of slash-and-burn land clearing methods that was held in the District of Nanga Tayap, Ketapang, West Kalimantan, “You need to involve the tribe leaders in activities such as these. When I return home, I will be able to deliver the right information on land and forest fire prevention and management to my people.”

Datuk Lawai, Chief of Dayak Ketapang tribe attending a Desa Siaga Api community awareness programme at PT AMNL
Datuk Lawai, Chief of Dayak Ketapang tribe attending
a Desa Siaga Api community awareness programme at PT AMNL

He acknowledges that there are challenges in convincing people to abandon traditional methods of clearing land using fire.

“People have been doing it to clear land, just like how their ancestors taught them to. It is not easy to change that habit in a short time. Moreover, this community is very confident in the accuracy of their calculations in burning land based on their traditional wisdom. They also strongly believe that land and forest fires are not caused by their slash-and-burn method,” he said.

Datuk Lawai said this was why involving the leaders of indigenous peoples in the Desa Siaga Api training and awareness programmes is absolutely essential, “The indigenous forest dwellers trust their tribe leaders more than anyone else. Instructions should be delivered directly by the tribe leaders. Otherwise, the community will not listen and will do whatever they want.”

“We should never give up talking about the dangers of land and forest fires and how to overcome this”

He also pointed out that the outreach programmes have to be carried out continuously to be effective, “If the education process is only done once or twice it will not be effective. But if we do it on an ongoing basis, I am sure it will work. So we should never give up talking about the dangers of land and forest fires and how to overcome this. Essentially, all stakeholders should work together to guide the community in preserving their environment. It is our responsibility to end land and forest fires. We have to prevent it from happening again.”

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