Yayasan Palung and Village Forest Management Boards (LPHD) Fight Fires

By Robi Kasianus, Village Forest Field Officer

From August 2023 to early September 2023, Ketapang Regency and North Kayong Regency experienced a particularly dry period. During the dry season, peatland areas are very vulnerable to fire, and we have seen an increase in the frequency and severity of fires in recent years. These fires, especially in peat forests, can often be attributed to the behavior of a few people who clear land by burning it, which results in fires spreading to community lands. Some people who clear land by burning are trying avoid the large costs that would be incurred by using other methods, since burning is very easy and fast, but they do not think about the impact it will have. 
Fire burns at night near one of the Hutan Desa (village forest) areas that we work with in the village of Padu Banjar. 

During this exceptionally dry period, the village forest areas that are supported by Yayasan Palung were threatened by fire. The source of the fire came from land that was controlled by the community and the fire spread and started approaching the village forest area. Based on monitoring carried out by Yayasan Palung, there were several active fires in village forest areas, including Padu Banjar Village, Pemangkat Village, and Nipah Kuning Village. The fire in Padu Banjar Village was ± 300 meters from the Village Forest, in Nipah Kuning Village ± 500 meters. Near Padu Banjar, a total of two hectares were burned. These fires resulted in losses for the community, especially people whose land already had plants, both perennials (Palm, Rubber, Jengkol, Petai and so on) as well as horticultural plants, especially pineapple which is a favorite plant on peatlands. 

Firefighting in the village of Padu Banjar.

The Village Forest Management Boards (LPHD) lead the effort to prevent forest and land fires from spreading to village forest areas. They take action by monitoring the fire and extinguishing the fires using LPHD’s fire extinguishing equipment, which was provided by Yayasan Palung. Pak Juhari (a member of the Nipah Kuning LPHD) said that the fire extinguisher provided by Yayasan Palung was of great benefit in extinguishing the forest and land fires that occurred. This is because the fire extinguishing tool (water pump machine) is very easy to carry to the fire location because it is very light (± 11 Kilograms). However, the difficult with extinguishing fires tin the field is that water sources become scarce due to the hot season, so the distance of the water source to the location of the fire means that the hose from the water pump machine cannot reach the location of the fire. Luckily the LPHD members had received training on how to address this, and resolved the problem by making a well near the location of the fire.  Fire fighting in the villages of Pemangkat (top) and Nipah Kuning (bottom). 

In their efforts to extinguish forest and land fires around this village forest area the LPHD collaborates with the Indonesian National Army, Police, Forest Management Unit, Kayong, Manggala Agni, Regional Disaster Management Agency, village government, Fire Care Society (MPA) and various other parties. Yayasan Palung’s role in these efforts to extinguish forest and land fires is providing support for LPHD operational needs in the field. With the hard work of all parties and rain in mid-September, the fires were controlled and did not spread to several village forests. Now, burnt land outside the village forest is being rehabilitated or planted with various types of plants such as Jengkol and Petai and various types of horticultural plants (corn, watermelon, pineapple). This rehabilitation activity was directly carried out by LPHD and Yayasan Palung, with the support of the Kayong Utara forest management unit that provided various types of plant seeds. There are two LPHDs that have carried out rehabilitation activities in burned areas, namely the Padu Banjar Village LPHD and the Pemangkat Village LPHD.
Forest rehabilitation began as soon as the fires were extinguished in the village of Padu Banjar.