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Restoring vulnerable peatlands

Indonesia is home to the world’s second largest area of tropical peatland, but it is at risk from expanding oil palm and acacia plantations and logging. Much of it has already been destroyed or degraded.

Project Berbak Green Prosperity Partnership, Jambi, Sumatra

ClientMillennium Challenge Account Indonesia

ExpertiseAdvisory, oversight, peer review, project management

Millions of hectares of peat have been drained, a highly dangerous practice because peat is not only very flammable but releases huge amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere as it burns – fuelling climate change. The Berbak Green Prosperity Partnership (BGPP) focused on rehabilitating degraded peatland and improving farming practices. We helped build 135 canal blocks in the buffer zone designated to shield the Berbak National Park, raise groundwater levels and slow peat degradation, and replanted 53ha with plant species adapted to cope with the rewetting of peat soils. Just by applying simple new farming practices, average net profits for smallholders covered by BGPP increased 25% over 2.5 years. BGPP’s success in protecting this special, but vulnerable ecological area is being replicated across the region.

Annual burning of the forests and peatlands causes massive air pollution across the region, causing respiratory and other illnesses. The smoke from the fires, known as the Indonesian haze, is especially hazardous for the very young and the elderly.  By rewetting destroyed peatlands, as well as protecting large swathes of land from further degradation, BGPP keeps people out of hospital and protects lives.

The fires farmers light to clear peatland damages more than the environment. The economic cost of the 2015 fires was more than US$16bn according to the World Bank. The haze from the fires closes airports, ports and other critical transport channels. BGPP has helped keep vital transport links open, enabling Indonesia to continue to grow and prosper.

The Berbak National Park is in Jambi province, one of Indonesia’s main palm oil production regions. Smallholder farmers have historically expanded into virgin land. We helped train more than 10,000 oil palm farmers to maximise harvests through better use of fertiliser and pesticides, and adopt new techniques, increasing their incomes without the need for expansion. Two thousand farmers were certified to the ISCC palm oil standard.

The natural landscape in the Muaro Jambi and Tanjung Jabung Timor districts is forest peatlands. The amount of sequestered carbon is huge and protecting the existing environment is not only cheaper than reforestation but is the best way to shield vital ecosystems and ensure climate change mitigation.

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