Collaboration with communities for peat rehabilitation projects not to be half-hearted, says palm oil giant executive

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Forging collaborations with communities living in the vicinity of palm oil concessions should not just be done half-heartedly, without any good intentions and clear ideas as to what these collaborations can achieve. Rather, the concept of mutually beneficial collaboration should serve as a benchmark when it comes to the implementation of peat rehabilitation projects by palm oil companies in their concessions.

These good intentions and clear ideas will be a deciding factor in whether peat rehabilitation projects can make an important contribution in bringing economic benefits to local communities.

If collaborations are forged with communities merely for the sake of it, especially without any good intentions and clear ideas involved, it will certainly be difficult to achieve community-based protection and rehabilitation of peatlands in palm oil concessions. As a result, it will also be tough to develop peat rehabilitation projects which are able to provide economic benefits to local communities, Agus "Pungky" Purnomo, Golden Agri Resources (GAR)s Managing Director of Sustainability and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement told foresthints.news on Monday (Feb 22) in Jakarta.

GAR, based in Singapore and one of the worlds leading palm oil companies, launched its own peatland rehabilitation project in mid-November 2015 as part of its commitment to sustainability.

"The main challenge in the field remains the same how can a company conducting a peatland rehabilitation project, such as ours, build and strengthen its collaboration with communities living around our concession areas, said Pungky.

He went on to say that, on the policy level, the protection of peatlands requires a clear set of laws and regulations, including local regulations, so that this protection can be carried out with a clear degree of legal certainty on the ground level.

"Peatland rehabilitation takes place on the ground level. The protection of peatlands in palm oil concessions also takes place in the field. As such, of course any peatland protection efforts need to have legal certainty on the ground, on the level of our concessions," Pungky explained.

Pungky pointed out that the question of legal certainty remains a matter of concern to his company, as does the need for forging and reinforcing collaborations with communities in its concession areas. Both of these issues need to be looked at in order for GAR's peatland rehabilitation project to be successful while also offering economic benefits to local communities.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency, which was formed in early January 2016, has declared that it intends to work together with the corporate sector in the restoration of burned peatlands located in concession areas.

Furthermore, the agency has also indicated that the success of its peat restoration efforts depends upon whether these efforts can be implemented at the community level.

In view of this, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) has also reminded the peat agency of the need to engage with local communities, particularly with indigenous communities, in its peat restoration efforts.