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Education is a basic human right, but for the children of Tanjung Padang village on Padang Island off the coast of Sumatra, there was a problem: the only way to reach their school a few kilometres away was across a fragile wooden bridge.

During bad weather the bridge could be slippery and, to avoid the risk of falling into the water, many children would miss school.

Crossing the small bridge could take 15 minutes or more as the children lined up to pass one at a time, causing pupils to be late for class.

That’s all changed thanks to the village’s participation in APRIL’s Fire Free Village Program (FFVP). The community used their IDR100 million reward for successfully preventing fires in 2016 to construct a concrete bridge on the road.

APRIL Group has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tanoto Foundation and Riau University to invest IDR 28.7 billion in education.

Under the MoU, APRIL will build lecture facilities for the university’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

APRIL also signed a MoU with the Pangkalan Kerinci State Vocational High School 1, and the Muhammadiyah Pekanbaru Vocational High School, and will be providing the schools with educational and empowerment tools.

“We see potential and that’s why we are trying to create human resources which are better educated. In a business, human resources are essential and should be nurtured from the beginning.

“That is what we are doing today. We are providing education in Riau with an investment of IDR 28.7 billion,” said M. Ali Shabri, Director of Operations at RAPP (an APRIL subsidiary).

In 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly collectively adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which outlines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Covering a broad range of social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, energy and environment, the SDGs are meant to enable inclusive growth in a world that leaves no one behind.

“Prior to the establishment of the SDGs, many companies have already made voluntary commitments to support sustainable development or to enhance environmental objectives, such as no-deforestation pledges or the implementation of sustainable forest management policies as in our sector,” said Lucita Jasmin, APRIL Director of Sustainability and External Affairs.

Companies cannot operate in isolation from the communities of which they are part. But managing those engagements can be difficult even in areas where the practice is well established. How to set up a village-level program in remote parts of Indonesia to not just partner with locals, but get them to change age-old practices?

That was the challenge faced by APRIL in the initial design of its now successful Fire Free Village Program (FFVP).

“The FFVP is about fire prevention through community engagement,” says Craig Tribolet, APRIL’s Strategic Fire and Protection Manager. Currently it works with 77 communities around APRIL’s concession areas to encourage them not to start fires, like those that led to the debilitating haze across the region in 2015.

The program began that same year when APRIL identified nine high fire risk villages which neighbour the company’s concession areas, engaging the communities there in discussions around fire prevention. Although the country as a whole saw the worst fires in its history, the villages which had joined FFVP reduced their average burning by 90 per cent.

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