The Kampar Peninsula in Riau Province lies on the East Coast of Sumatra. It is a delicate and unique peat swamp ecosystem, with tropical biodiverse forests residing on thick waterlogged layers of peat. Sadly, forest areas have been degraded over the years through encroachment and other illegal activities contributing to greenhouse gas emission. Degradation has also led to species loss and a drying out of the peat swamp, increasing vulnerability to forest fires.
In May 2013, APRIL Group announced a US$17 million sponsorship to support a multi-year ecosystem restoration programme or Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER). Launched by then Indonesian Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan, the RER programme commits to delivering a comprehensive ecosystem restoration of ecologically important peat forest areas on the Kampar Peninsula, meeting environmental, economic and social needs in a sustainable way. The programme also establishes a model for active collaboration among a diverse set of partners working together for a common environmental purpose.
The RER project covers an initial 20,265 hectares on the Kampar Peninsula, with an additional 20,000 hectares to follow in 2015. This area is governed by an eco-restoration license granted by the Indonesian government in November 2012. The eco-restoration license falls under a new forest management unit scheme that aims to achieve ecosystem balance through the restoration of biotic and abiotic elements to optimise ecosystem function and productivity within a specific silviculture system. In time, the ecological processes and functions of the restored habitat will closely match those of the original habitat.
APRIL Group provides financial, technical and resource assistance to RER to support the restoration and long-term protection of the area. Principle partners are Flora & Fauna International (FFI) - the world’s oldest established international conservation body - and Indonesian social development consultant Bidara. Together, APRIL Group and its partners are working towards a common, and crucial, environmental goal.
Restoration under the RER project follows four tracks:
- Protecting the landscape from further degradation
- Assessing the ecosystem and the social environment of those who depend on it
- Restoring ecosystem by revitalizing native plant and wildlife species
- Managing the area long-term to sustain biodiversity and community life
Much progress has been made. In its first year, the RER reported the following achievements:
- Trained and deployed 35 locally hired forest rangers, one third of who have previously worked as illegal loggers and poachers, to protect the eco-restoration area. They are equipped with skills and knowledge of forest ecosystem, land navigation, jungle survival, search and rescue, basic skills of forest inventory and vegetation analysis, fire fighter and fire danger rating, effective patrol, and community awareness.
- Provided both regular ground and aerial surveillance to monitor forest area and prevent any potential threats. This is especially important as the eco-restoration area covered more than 20,000 hectare with limited trail access.
- Together with the Police, shut down two illegal logging operations in the heart of eco-restoration area, which was detected by aerial patrol.
- Extinguished a forest fire accidentally caused by bird poachers.
- Established nurseries where each nursery nurture thousands of seedlings from more than 40 various native species to begin re-stocking the forest.
- Planted 1,200 indigenous trees during the first planting ceremony in the presence of then Indonesian Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan.
- Identified and conducted topography surveys in order to provide precise data and information for illegal canal blocking action.
- Maintained close relationships with 5 neighbouring villages through regular visits to raise community awareness, update and discuss forest restoration progress.
- Conducted formal dialogue with major community groups and wider stakeholder in Riau province, including, Riau Malay Customary and Kinship Council (LAM Riau). LAM Riau helps to formulate the management of the Riau Ecosystem Restoration programme, where community involvement and welfare will be a priority in the development of the Riau Ecosystem Restoration programme in the Kampar peninsula.
- Delivered training in sustainable methods for hunting and fishing non-protected species to local communities.
Further details of the RER programme can be found at Rekoforest .