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Darwis, a 52 year old farmer, who works on a half-hectare of government-owned farmland in Pelalawan, Riau, describes how cheap it is to clear land using fires to make way for farming land, compared to if one has to use cleavers to cut trees and clean up tree roots with hoe.

With a box of matches and some gasoline --which are cheap for Indonesians--, he said hectares of land can be burnt, as fire is typically quick to spread during the dry season, the perfect time for traditional farmers to prepare the land.

Craig Tribolet, 
Strategic Fire and Protection Manager APRIL
Craig Tribolet, 

Strategic Fire and Protection Manager APRIL

Darwis, whose name goes with one word like many Indonesians, said burning replaces "a month work" to clear land with traditional tools, with just one day simple work.

The father of three did not say whether he once contributed to a land fire in his village, but said many farmers in his village were looking to farm some "unmanaged" lands to grow crops, especially rice, which outcome just barely enough to feed their family.

Craig Tribolet, Strategic Fire and Protection Manager at Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL Group) said from his observations, it was not the intention of some traditional farmers to burn hundreds of hectares of land.

“Their intention is not malicious. They don't want to destroy 100 hectares, they don't plan to. They just don't think about what happens to the fire after they start burning," said Tribolet.

Forest fires and land burning are clearly problems, not just for companies who own concessions in nearby area. A number of local as well as international media have reported that these have contributed to smokes and haze that are not only engulfing the burned area, but also into neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and reaching as far as southern Thailand.

The damages?

Various reports have shown that they include not just material loss and health problems like respiratory tract infections due to thick haze, but forest fires have worsened decades of existing deforestation in Indonesia, which further threatening some endangered species in Indonesia's tropical forests, which are rich in bio-diversity.

Acknowledging the complexity of fire and haze issues, which no single party can solve on their own, APRIL Group introduced a program called "Desa Bebas Api", or Fire Free Village Program (FFVP), which started in 2015. 

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What is FFVP and how did it start? Read more in our next article: FFVP, How It Starts
You may like to watch: 

The Haze: Origins & Challenges

Indonesia Haze Origins and Challenges

The Haze: Impacts & Solutions

Indonesia The Haze Impacts & Solutions

 

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