Building the Capacity of Indigenous Forest Peoples to Control Forest Fires

Alimaturahim (middle, wearing glasses) is having a meeting on site with leaders of indigenous forest peoples and other key stakeholders (local government, business, and conservation NGOs).

One of the outdoor sessions of the training in forest fire prevention, control, and mitigation.

Southeast Sulawesi IndonesiaAsia, Forests16 Oct 2007

Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, has a land area of 3,814,000 ha of which 2,518,337 ha (66%) comprise natural forests. These, unfortunately, continue to shrink severely. Between 1992 and 2003 alone, the total deforestation was 371,385 ha. This means the average rate was over 33,762 ha per year, or 3.8 ha (larger than nine football fields!) per hour. The forests are home to approximately 300 species of globally endangered and/or endemic wildlife and plants, including the dwarf buffalos Anoa Bubalus depressicornis and quarlesi, and the rare orchid Dendrobium utile. In addition, the forests are primary sources of food, livelihoods, medicines, shelters, and also sacred places to about 800,000 forest-dependent communities including over 200,000 indigenous forest peoples of 29 different ethnic groups.

The deforestation is primarily caused by six problems, one of which is that man-made forest fires increase, at the same time, local capacity for the prevention and mitigation are very poor. The fires severely threaten the existence of thousands of forest dependent communities (both human and non-human). Unfortunately, due to lack of resources, almost nothing can be done by the government and NGOs to address the problems.

Indonesia is known as the world’s third largest mega-biodiversity country primarily because it has about 104,986,000 ha of forests covering 58% of its land. This is well known to the international communities as the third largest carbon-sink in the planet. Ecologically, Indonesia’s forests are prime reservoirs of biodiversity that store 11% of the world’s plant species, 12% of mammal species, 15% of reptiles and amphibians and 17% of birds, a significant part of which are endemic and/or globally endangered. Each part of the forests supports life. The soil is full of uncounted numbers of microbes, insects, and fungi, essential to recycling organic matter, and thus to the survival of all life on earth. Larger animals live on the forest floor, and the shrub and tree canopy layers are vital to birds. The forests are also the primary sources of water, foods, medicines, timber fibers, dyes, fuels and cultural identity for millions of people living in and nearby.

Man-made forest fires increasingly threaten the incredibly wealthy biodiversity to extinction. By building the capacity of indigenous forest peoples to control forest fires, we could eventually protect the highly valued natural ecosystem for the sake of the present and future generations.

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