If we’re to protect vital peatlands, we must also protect peatland communities

There is now a global scientific consensus that the world is in a race against time to halt catastrophic and irreversible climate change. The incoming UN secretary general has said it's the biggest crisis facing humanity and the biggest curse we could bequeath our children.

If we’re to protect vital peatlands, we must also protect peatland communities

Central to tackling this crisis is the protection of forests and peatland right here in Indonesia. But protecting forests and peatlands, also means identifying ways for people that live and work around these areas to sustain their families. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are approximately 90 million hectares classified as primary and secondary forests and approximately 15 million hectares of peat in Indonesia across the seven provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua – of these, 11.8 million hectares of peatland are in concessions zoned for productive use.

Estimates indicate between 60-70% of industrial plantations takes place on peatlands. Agriculture, including these industries, employs around 40% of workers in some of the poorest provinces in Indonesia. In addition to large industry concessions, 1.1 million hectares of the areas targeted for restoration in Indonesia are occupied by local villagers for subsistence and smallholder agriculture.

Simple maths show we need to bring these farmers and village communities on board if we are going to make the kind of impact required to address the challenges we face. And it’s here that the private sector, as one of the drivers of innovation, must step up and find practical solutions that can maintain employment, while also protecting the peatlands we need to soak up carbon dioxide.

This week at the Global Landscapes Forum in Jakarta, experts from across the spectrum, from academia to private and public corporations, joined with global policymakers to try and identify realistic and practical solutions needed to confront these often conflicting demands on our globally important forests and peatlands. 

Major regional players in the world of business which have been supporting the Asia Pacific Rainforest Partnership will be working to see if there are win-win solutions that can work for both farmers and the needs of our fragile environment.

Only by being honest about the challenges we face and sincerely working together will we stand any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

By Aida Greenbury and Martijn Wilder, chairs of the Private Sector Roundtable of the Asia Pacific Rainforest Partnership

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