Fighting fire in eastern Sumatra, Indonesia

Edi Candra saw the fire while he was returning home from his fields. It was spreading quickly, and the wind was blowing towards the village, Desa Sungai Rambut. Calling the fire brigade was pointless: they might take days to get to the village from the distant town. This particular fire caused a lot of damage before it was put out by a heavy downpour. But it had a longer term effect: it resulted in formation of the first community fire brigade in Indonesia.

Edi Candra and his friends asked a project run by Wetlands International in the area for help. The project agreed: it organized three brigades of young men in Desa Sungai Rambut and nearby villages, gave them training in firefighting and first aid, and provided them with simple equipment such as fire beaters, pumps, hoses and backpack sprayers.

Seven voluntary brigades

There are now seven voluntary community brigades in the area, three of them supported by the project. The other four brigades have formed spontaneously without such support as people copied the lead of Edi Candra and his friends. There is a strong tradition in Indonesia for voluntary community work, such as village security patrols and doing farm work together. These brigades draw on this tradition.

Location of Berbak, Sumatra, Indonesia


Indonesia – Sumatran peatswamps

Next to Central Kalimantan, our peat work has taken place in Indonesia the areas of Berbak-Sembilang, on the island of Sumatra. Wetlands International worked on finding a sustainable balance between the activities of people and the fragile peatland ecosystem they depend on.


Many of the peatswamp forests in Indonesia have been logged, drained to enable logging or to develop agricultural areas like palm oil plantations. Following large-scale logging, land conversion and burning, these areas have become devoid of trees in the 1980s and 1990s. Some areas have been converted into agricultural land whereas others remain as wastelands suffering from annual wildfires in the dry season which alternate with extensive flooding during the monsoon.

Besides the difficulty of farming in peatland areas, unsustainable land management and resource overexploitation (including rampant logging) has contributed to increased poverty.

Research by Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics has shown that such drainage leads to enormous CO2 emissions and significantly contributes to climate change.

A short film explains the problem and our solutions.

How our work tackles these problems

The project works on alternative and sustainable livelihoods. Local people are provided with loans to stop logging, protect the remaining forests from illegal logging, end drainage of the peatswamps, reforest the area and to set up alternative businesses like chicken farms.

 If these tasks are conducted well, the loans are converted into gifts. This is according to the biorights principle: local people are paid for the services they deliver; services with benefits at a national or even global scale such as biodiversity protection, reducing climate change by ending drainage and fires.

 In this way, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions for minimal costs; approximately one euro for one tonne CO2. This is a win situation for the global community, for local people and for the nature in the peatswamp forests.

Burned and degraded peatswamp in Berbak, Jambi, Indonesia

About the area

The Greater Berbak – Sembilang National Parks is one of Sumatra’s last remaining peatswamp forests. The parks are extremely important for biodiversity (harbouring among others Sumatran tiger, Malay tapir and Sumatran rhinoceros) and plays an important role in (below ground) carbon storage and regulation of water flows.

Surrounding the park lies an extensive area of degraded peatland.

Some villages harbour transmigrants from Java which were relocated several decades ago to reduce population pressure.

The project sites are located in two provinces (South Sumatra and Jambi). In South Sumatra, the project site is located in Muara Merang Village. In Jambi, project sites are located in two districts, namely Tanjung Jabung Barat (located in 3 villages : Sungai Rambut, Telago Limo, Simpang Datuk) and Tanjung Jabung Barat (located in 5 villages : Pembengis, Makmur Jaya, Mekar Jaya, Serdang and Teluk Sialang) . The project sites in South Sumatra Province and Tanjung Jabung Barat District are located in the buffer zone of Berbak – Sembilang National Parks.