Link between children’s education and acacia planting exposed

(foresthints.news) - A key lesson has been learned from catching a company belonging to Singapore-based pulp and paper giant APRIL red-handed committing peat violations by planting new acacia in newly-developed peatlands in Sumatra’s Riau Kampar Peninsula landscape.

This deeply concerning lesson is that a factual link exists between the prospects for the children of laborers, in terms of their education (or lack thereof), and new acacia planting - in this case involving PT RAPP, the APRIL company caught red-handed.

Families from North Sumatra’s Nias Island are the primary workers on new acacia planting sites, and they mostly bring their children with them to these locations where they stay in unfit conditions. Their children also do not go to school.

San Afri Awang, former director general at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, recalled an experience that shocked him at the time when talking to foresthints.news (Oct 11) at the ministry building. “I am a professor. It broke my heart to see children not attending school, and instead just hanging around the new acacia planting sites in the APRIL concession.”

At the time of the ground inspection that exposed the peat violations, conducted in early December last year, San Afri was still one of the director generals at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, whereas now he serves as a senior advisor to the minister whose responsibilities include monitoring-related work.

The following two photos depict the situation of the children in one of the APRIL company's new acacia planting sites. It is clear that their education is being neglected.

Business responsibility towards childhood education

Professor San Afri gave a stark reminder of how businesses, such as those in the pulp and paper industry and in this case APRIL, really need to pay attention to the education of the children of the people who are actually doing the hard work of planting new acacia.

“We want businesses to have a responsible attitude towards children's education. They shouldn't just be thinking about how many hectares of new acacia have been planted while they ignore the educational fate of the children who accompany their parents to new acacia planting sites,” the esteemed Gadjah Mada University professor lamented.

The photos below show how excited the children in the APRIL concession were when photographed with Professor San Afri, as well as the inadequate tents in the new acacia planting sites in the concession where the children reside for months.

“The situation concerning the fate of these children's education has been communicated to APRIL. When I returned to inspect the new acacia planting locations in APRIL's peat violation areas in early March of this year (Mar 4), the tents were no longer there,” San Afri explained.

“What I’m talking about here is a lesson learned from ground-based evidence,” he continued.

“Let's try to avoid the need for any new lessons learned arising from the fate of children whose future is unclear because of a lack of education, like I witnessed when performing the inspection that caught the APRIL concession red-handed,” San Afri urged.

In the near future, the professor added, the ministry's peat monitoring team will continue with its inspections of new acacia planting locations, including checking the extent to which children, who should be at school but are instead wasting their time at these sites, are involved.

“Responsible business is not simply about giving scholarships to others, but also about paying attention to the educational fate of kids who stay for months on these concession sites,” implored Professor San Afri Awang in conclusion.