January 08, 2018
Riau Ecosystem Restoration’s (RER) efforts to restore the Kampar peninsula not only lie within forest restoration but also include local community development.
There are around 17,000 people living in the area surrounding RER, many of whom depend on the land for their livelihood. Enabling local communities to lead more sustainable lives while benefitting economically is crucial for the restoration project to succeed in the long-term.
RER partners with NGO Bidara to provide education on good agricultural practices on peatland, including the importance of not using fire to clear land.
Bidara Community Organiser Syahroji H says that they provide agricultural assistance in this way in Dusun Sangar, Pulau Muda in Meranti through the Maju Bersama Farmers’ Group.
Local people are used to clearing land for agriculture through burning. According to them, not only is clearing the land by burning easier and cheaper, it also makes the soil more fertile. This traditional way can be dangerous to the community, as fires can be difficult to control – particularly peatland fires.
Zamri, a member of Maju Bersama, admits that he used to clear land by burning.
“Now, using the right way to clear land and plant chili has resulted in more benefits for me,” he says.
Initially, RER helped Zamri to clear 1.5 hectares of land for chili farming. The aid of a tractor (provided by RER) makes it easy for farmers to clear land without burning.
At first, Zamri managed to harvest 2.5 tons of chili but his second harvest was 5.5 tons. He managed to sell all his crops to collectors in the city and now employs four workers to help him manage the land.
Besides chili, Maju Bersama also grows red ginger as well as vegetables for their own daily consumption.
“The location of this place is quite isolated, so people have to make use of the land to grow their own crops,” Syahroji says.
Besides growing crops, local communities are also trained in goat rearing to help them earn alternative incomes. The goat farmers are also taught how to utilize goat manure as organic fertilizer which they can then use or sell.
Heri, 27, started breeding livestock after receiving four goats from RER.
“At first, I didn’t know how to breed them properly. My goats would give birth but the young would die. Following that, the team from RER brought a veterinarian in to provide training.
“Now, I have nine goats,” he says.
RER also provides further assistance, including checking on the farmers’ livestock periodically.
With RER and Bidara’s help, the local community in Dusun Sangar is able to have better lives with sustainable incomes, upholding a no-burning policy along the way.