Frequent fire outbreaks in agricultural communities have led to soil degradation, which meant low crop yields, and more crippling poverty for farmers who have had to deal with this scourge every year without a reprieve, a sensitization campaign against wildfires in the Fonis heard as officials of the forestry department, the Brikama Area Council and the West Coast governor’s office met local communities.
Vegetation and land fires are not new to the Southeast Asian landscapes. Nevertheless, strikingly different perspectives persist about the significance of fires in the tropics to environmental changes and human well-being and consequently how they should be managed to reduce the risks and disasters. In order to frame the fire problems, there are at least three domains with high potential of meeting multiple objectives. First, is through understanding natural ecosystem, their functions and consequences for biogeochemical cycles. Assessing their vulnerability to fire under current and future climate is summarized in line with the human systems. Second, is through understanding human systems, their adaptive capacity to manage fires and their risks. Investments in capacity at multiple levels are needed, but particularly at fairly local levels where stakeholders have strong incentives to manage fires appropriate to local contexts. Third, is through better understanding of fire disturbance regimes for effective mitigation measures. Finally, it is imperative to engage policy-relevant research and greatly involve stakeholders in exploring the full range of land and fire management options.
For many years, FAO has provided information and technical assistance in the area of forest fire management, including data collection, production and dissemination of information, preparation of guidelines on forest fire management and status and reports on forest fires, and direct advice to member countries.
Special attention has recently been given to information and public awareness in related policy, legal and institutional issues. Following suggestions made at the XI World Forestry Congress and the result of the Information Meeting on Forest Fires held on 12 November 1997 during the 29th FAO Conference, in response to the recent media attention to forest fires, FAO held a Meeting on Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires from 28 to 30 October 1998.
This publication is presented in two parts. Part I contains the regional papers analysing the main socio-political causes of forest fires and the measures/actions adopted to prevent and reduce their impacts; it provides the focus for the exchange of information and ideas among the participants and presents the main conclusions and recommendations of the meeting. Part II brings together the papers and contributions provided by the participants to the meeting.
Download the document (1.44 MB, PDF)
The fires in 1997/98 which occurred throughout Indonesia were not something new as they have occurred numerous times throughout the archipelago in the recent past. However, there have been a number of claims and assumptions made on the underlying causes and causal histories of these fires. There have been some exaggerated claims made as to the causes and some unsubstantiated claims based on specific ignition events. The research undertaken aims to address some of these issues by analysing the fires and their range of severity in relation to the causal histories based on a number of sites with different characteristics, policies, land use practices to determine the underlying causes of fire.
This review is guided by the Project FireFight South East Asia (PFFSEA)’s aim to document successful community experiences with forest fires and analyse those political, institutional, economic and cultural elements that enable local communities to actively engage in preventing uncontrolled burning.
Community-based forest fire management in South East Asia is attracting more attention, partly because of the overall interest in promoting community-based resource management and partly due to recent catastrophic forest fires, making it imperative to find ‘alternative’ ways to prevent future outbreaks of similar scale.
Although forest fires have occurred in South East Asia for centuries and are important in the development of terrestrial ecosystems, concerns about changes in fire regimes and their impacts are growing. However, the role of fire in the landscape needs carefully assessment. Suppression of fire may lead to more intense fire in the future as a result of accumulated fuel loads. Suppression alone is not always a ‘successful’ fire management approach. Unfortunately, no reference to the use of small fires to prevent bigger fires in South East Asia could be found.
Download the publication (395 KB, PDF)
Large-scale, recurrent fires in Indonesia in recent decades have caused widespread deforestation and transformation of peatlands, and have contributed to substantial smoke haze and greenhouse-gas pollution. In some areas, local community use of fire for livelihood needs could be a major factor behind the widespread fires. The authors assessed fire patterns and their causes from the 1980s to the present in the Middle Mahakam peatlands of East Kalimantan. This was achieved through satellite image and GIS analysis, biological and social field surveys, and rapid rural appraisals in the villages.
Community-based disaster management: a response to increased risks to disaster with emphasis on forest firesPosted on: 21 July 2008 - 3:24pm
East Kalimantan has become increasingly vulnerable to forest fires in the last two decades. Most of the burning is caused by human activities aggravated by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The forest fires have seriously affected the livelihoods of people relying on the forests and many households are now less secure after the 1997/98 forest fires.
In response, CARE has developed a humanitarian approach to community forest fire management based on disaster management concepts. Disaster management incorporates community development with disaster/emergency responses. CARE’s program consists of six clusters of activities, i.e. participatory action and learning, training in disaster management, building local emergency response capacity, improving land-use mapping, organizing stakeholder planning workshops and establishing stakeholder forums on disaster management at the sub-district level.
Initial assessments highlighted the communities’ fatalistic attitudes about their situation. CARE’s attempts to engage the communities in designing and implementing activities have proven to be a successful start of the project. Training in disaster management was effective in developing initial links between communities and other stakeholders, as well as establishing a common vision about disaster management.
Disaster management has great potential in dealing with increased vulnerability to forest fires. One of its strong points is the flexibility of the program that allows communities to adapt activities to suit their socio-cultural traditions and needs, and to integrate them into village development plans. It is equally important to expose stakeholders to existing international standards of entitlements to emergency assistance.
Community fire use, resource change, and livelihood impacts: the downward spiral in the wetlands of southern SumatraPosted on: 15 July 2008 - 4:37pm
Fire is an important community wetland management tool in Indonesia, but its increasing use in the wetlands of southern Sumatra is degrading the landscape and diminishing household incomes and livelihood options.
The authors studied evolving community land and fire use, resource and livelihood impacts on two sites of roughly 250 km2 each using satellite image analysis and biological and socio-economic surveys. Uncontrolled fire use expanded over time in relation to sonor or swamp rice cultivation, logging, fishing, grazing, and annual cropping on drained wetlands. As a result, most of the landscape has been subject to repeated fires of varying intensities, more extensive in El Niño years. Direct burning by companies played a smaller transitory role in fire ignition over the two decades. But company activities and other large-scale developments contributed to expanding community fire-based land use by bringing in more people, improving access to remote wetlands or making them more flammable.
Widespread, repeated fires have transformed the landscape from mature high swamp forests to uniform stands of fire-resistant Gelam (Melaleuca cajuputi) forests and thickets, open savannas and grasslands. These new types of land cover are also degrading. Local communities have rapidly adapted to the changing resources and new opportunities. Logging and fishing declined in importance, and sonor and harvesting of Gelam expanded. But resource depletion has led to falling incomes and fewer livelihood options. The impacts extend beyond local areas as workers migrate into neighbouring forests to extract resources. Large-scale developments, community fire-based management practices and landscape transformation are spreading from accessible to formerly more remote wetlands.
Results from remote sensing analysis, participatory mapping, socio-economic interviews, and hotspot information that were analyzed in a geographic information system (GIS) show how fire has changed the landscape through its use in land preparation for oil palm and timber plantations and in the development of transmigration settlements.
These timber and oil palm plantations have greatly altered the livelihood options of the communities, and have created conflict between communities and companies over land-use allocation and tenure. In many cases, conflict over tenure has been the motive for forest and land fires during the annual dry season. The study suggests that, where partnerships between communities and companies were established to develop oil palm and timber plantations that included a greater sharing of benefits and use of land, the incidence of fires designed to damage the planted resource was greatly reduced.