Fire Free Alliance claims to have dramatically reduced forest fires in Sumatra since 2015

The Fire Free Alliance (FFA), a collective made up primarily of forestry and agriculture companies and civil society groups, is claiming credit for a reduction in forest fires in Sumatra over the past two years.

In its FFA Members Review 2016 report released in Jakarta on Wednesday, the group claimed to have expanded its forest fire prevention outreach to 218 villages across Indonesia, covering more than 1.5 million hectares of land.

In Riau and Jambi, two provinces in Sumatra where massive forest fires have created environmental disasters in recent years, fires in nine villages under its Fire-Free Village Program had been reduced by roughly 50 percent between 2015 and 2016, the report claimed.

The report stated that throughout 2016, a mere 7 ha from 307,000 ha of forests under the program in Riau and Jambi caught fire, a 50 percent drop from 14 ha destroyed by fire in 2015.

Established last year, the FFA focuses on fire prevention through community engagement with members including APRIL, Asian Agri, IDH, Musim Mas, PM Haze and Wilmar.

It aims to target the root causes of forest fires and address them through education and promoting awareness.

“The government encourages the private sector to cooperate to prevent forest fires,” Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, an official from the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, said.

He said forestry companies were obliged to provide villagers with support to shift to a fire-free farming system.

Prabianto noted that forest fires had become an annual man-made disaster for the last 18 years and occurred in the same locations in seven fire-prone provinces.

“There might be another El Nino. Our hope is that if it does happen, we won’t have to lose 1.9 percent of the GDP. We won’t lose 2.6 million hectares to fire,” Dorjee Sun from the FFA said.

Dorjee added that Indonesia lost US$16 billion during the 2015 forest fires, about twice as much as it lost in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh. (hol)

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