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Working Together with Local Communities to Prevent Forest and Land Fires

Preventing and fighting fires requires collaboration between the government, private and public sectors, and communities. Each party has an important role to play in mitigating the risk of fire.

This is the spirit that Dani Sumitran has been working to nurture and promote among the local communities around APRIL Group’s operations in Riau Province.

Dani is Fire Prevention and Conservation Manager at APRIL Group. Her role is to engage stakeholders in the company's area of operations through educational, awareness raising and incentive-based programs to gain communities’ involvement in preventing fires.

Her role is critical to developing viable, sustainable and collaboration-based fire prevention programs by identifying and addressing the root causes of burning.

"Our main focus is not only to suppress fires, but more importantly, to prevent and ensure it doesn’t happen," Dani said.

One proven prevention method is APRIL’s Fire Free Village Program, a partnership with local communities to address the underlying causes of fires.

The program includes incentivizing villages to abandon traditional agricultural methods using fire to clear and prepare land for cultivation. The program rewards communities who prevent fire on their land by funding infrastructure projects, including schools, mosques and roads.

The program also provides agricultural assistance by supporting communities to adopt a range of sustainable agricultural alternatives, including the use of mechanical land clearing tools and No Burn land management.

Another aspect of the program is recruiting individuals from local communities as fire prevention champions and fire suppression advocates at the village level. This role covers fire monitoring, reporting and sharing the knowledge and training provided to them by APRIL.

“We also ensure these communities are able to better prepare themselves ahead of the fire danger periods,” Dani pointed out.

The fire prevention efforts focus on raising widespread public awareness on how to prevent fires.

“Fire safety is everyone’s business: the easiest way to help prevent fire is simply raising the awareness and educating our families, friends and neighbors on the dangers of fires and to be cautious with fire hazards around you,” Dani said during an Ask Me Anything session with curious followers.

For Dani, another challenge she faces in her current role in addition to educating the public about fire is fighting existing gender stereotypes.

“Most of the time, as a woman in this stereotypical “male” role, people assume I am less capable at it. I strive to break that glass ceiling every time and prove I am equal to, if not better than my male counterparts in doing my job. I have the spirit, tenacity, competence and strength to prevent fire and ensure a safe environment both for APRIL and surrounding communities,” said Dani, who has been with APRIL since 2011.

Dani is no stranger to working in male-dominated environments though; she’s dabbled in it since the beginning of her career. “I appreciate the equal opportunity APRIL gives to all its employees.”

A graduate of Chemical Engineering at Setia Budi University, Dani believes none of her success will be possible without the strong support of her employer, which has advanced female participation in the workforce and provides equal opportunities for development.

“Personally I think education, grades and skills are just some of the requirements for the initial working process. However, the most important thing to excel in this role is having the commitment and passion in contributing and ensuring a better future for the company, community and the planet.”