Jakarta – Asian Agri strengthened its commitment to prevent forest and ground fires by launching its 2018/2019 Fire-Free Village Program involving 16 villages in the fire-prone provinces of Riau and Jambi in Sumatra, the company said in a release obtained by The Palm Scribe on Friday (06/07).
The launching on Thursday, July 5, 2018, featured the signing of a memorandum of agreement by the heads of 16 villages, the company released said.
“We feel really helped by the cooperation which has already been ongoing for the past two years, to safeguard our village from fire,” said the Tambak Village Crew Leader Zulkatab in Riau.
He also said that under the program, Asian Agri has provided not only pieces of equipment for fire fighting and prevention but also training for local villagers.
The same program for the 2017/2018 period has managed to see the number of fires in the member villages cut down drastically compared to the previous year.
“There has been a drop in the fire areas reaching 316 hectares,” Asian Agri’s Sustainability Operation Manager Zulbahri said, adding that in 2016 fires affected 398 hectares and in 2017 the number fell to just 82 hectares.
Zulbahri said that the program was a synergy between the community, the government and the company in curbing land fires. It was focused on prevention.
“With the support from the people, the village administration and its personnel through the Fire-Free Village Program, we are optimistic that we will continue to curb the number of fires to no land fire at all,” he said.
He added that the program was also committed to preventing fires from breaking out during the 2018 Asian Games hosted by two Indonesian cities — Jakarta and Palembang — in August and September. In the past, forest and ground fires have sent smoke that has hung over the region, sometimes for months, causing health and traffic hazards.
At the same occasion, Asian Agri Riau Regional Head Omri Samosir symbolically presented five villages which had managed to be free from any fire in the 2017/2018 program and one village which had a fire that affected less than one hectare.
The five villages which managed to be free from ground fires each received a cash award of Rp100 million while the one village which only had fire affecting under one hectare received half the sum. The money is expected to be used to further strengthen the village’s fire prevention means and effectiveness.
“In Asian Agri, we have a commitment not to use burning and will make sure that there is no longer burning practice in the entire area of our plantations. We are extending the same spirit by inviting villages around our plantation to also abide by this commitment,” Samosir said.