Project Summary

The initial concept for the project was proposed at an international conference on agricultural development in semi-arid eastern Indonesia held in Kupang in 1995 (see Hill 1995). The research component was developed at a workshop held in Darwin in 1999, funded principally by ACIAR (see Russell-Smith et al. 2000). Further project development occurred at a workshop held in Kupang, in June 2000, and through discussions with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

This project addresses the following issues:

  1. Whilst fire is a widely used tool in a range of Indonesian agricultural, pastoral and forestry land-use contexts, the impacts of current burning practices remain unclear and poorly documented.

  2. There is a need to develop fire managment practices that may be used sustainably and economically in maintaining ecosystem function and improving livelihoods, with minimal negative impacts such as deforestation, weed invasion, depletion of organic and nutrient capital, soil erosion, degradation of watersheds, smoke and haze pollution and associated transboundary problems between neighbouring countries, and ultimately permanent loss of productivity.

  3. Relevant policies and policy outcomes, communication and education products could be developed to facilitate and enable the judicious use of fire in sustainable land and forest management.

The primary objectives of the proposed project are to:

  1. determine current and past patterns of fire in a range of strategically located sites in western Indonesia (southern Sumatra, East Kalimantan), eastern Indonesia (Sumba and Flores), and northern Australia;

  2. review national, state/regional policy frameworks regarding underlying fire management issues and past/current impacts of these policies;

  3. determine positive and negative impacts of a range of fire management strategies in monsoonal environments, particularly for forestry;

  4. determine appropriate fire management strategies and identify enabling policies (that facilitate improved livelihood options) for different land-use objectives through participatory planning methods; and

  5. enhance land and forest management capacity of stakeholders and associated institutions through technology transfer, training and education.

The project activities are based on the aims listed above and will feed into the development and implementation of appropriate fire management strategies and policies. Action research sites will be established to assess the impacts of fire (past, current, potential) on a range of major production land-uses and land cover types (agriculture, forests, pastoralism), with reference to three regions, i.e. eastern Indonesia, western Indonesia and northern Australia.

The project also includes:

(a) assessment of regional patterns of burning using participatory mapping at landscape level (involving local community participation), remote sensing and GIS technologies;

(b) comparative assessment of fire management policy frameworks and their impact on the biophysical and socio-economic environment;

(c) assisting with development of institutional capacity through provision of targeted training and educational activities; and ultimately

(d) developing strategy options and enabling policies for improved forest and land management practice, and promoting these to government(s) at national, provincial and local level and the community generally.

The Australian partners will be provide research, technical and educational services as required, through exchanges of project staff, and assistance with overall project management and co-ordination. The key Australian partners include the Northern Territory University (NTU) and the Tropical Savannas Management Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) (and associated partner agencies, in particular the Bushfires Council of the Northern Territory, BFCNT).

The key Indonesian partners include the Provincial Planning Board Nusa Tenggara Timor, i.e. BAPPEDA NTT, which will take overall responsibility for co-ordinating the eastern Indonesian program, the national Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry, and Environment, regional universities (in particular Wira Wacana University, Sumba), and key non-government organisations including the Nusa Tenggara Community Development Consortium.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) as an IARC partner will, in collaboration with the NTT partners, undertake research primarily on the biophysical, social and economic impacts of fire in western Indonesia and on sites in eastern Indonesia. It will also be involved in technical training in combining participatory mapping with GIS/remote sensing through a GIS developed in association with partners in eastern Indonesia, a methodology developed with the aim of determining the underlying causes of fire in western Indonesia (Applegate et al. 2001, Tacconi et al. 2001).

The project has received the full support of the Governor of NTT, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, the Northern Territory University, Tropical Savannas Management CRC, the Bushfires Council of the Northern Territory, and the Director General of CIFOR.

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