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Peatland conservation in the Berbak-Sembilang National Park, Indonesia

In the Berbak-Sembilang national park on Sumatera, Indonesia we worked with communities on finding a sustainable balance between the activities of people and the fragile peatland ecosystem they depend on. The area is a vulnerable area of tropical peatland forests and threatened by logging and unsustainable agriculture.

Action Description:


Many of the peat swamp forests in Indonesia have been logged, drained to enable logging or to develop agricultural areas like oil palm 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) have contributed to increased poverty. Our joint research with Delft Hydraulics has shown that such drainage leads to enormous CO2 emissions and significantly contributes to climate change.

How the we tackled these problems

We provided alternative sources of income to the local people, preventing or stopping their damaging actions, such as illegal logging and poaching. Through our Bio-rights microcredit financing, we provided them with loans to stop logging, protect the remaining forests from illegal logging and drainage of the peat swamps, 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 conservation rights 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-win situation for the global community, for local people and for the nature in the peatswamp forests.

Action Partners:


Netherlands Ministry of International Cooperation as a demonstration project of the Wetlands and Poverty Reduction Project (see under headquarters)

Project partners

The project was conducted by:
Wetlands International Indonesia
- Bina Swadaya: one of the largest organisations in Indonesia, working development with a self-help groups approuach. 
- Pinse Foundation: a Jambi (Sumatra) based NGO with the vision to establish a democratic, fairfull and equal social structure.
- Wahana Bumi Hijau Foundation: a Palembang (South Sumatra) based NGO  with the main concern to the empower local communities and to conserve the environment through advocacy, research and capacity building.

More Action Details