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By Chermaine Yap

As we approach this year’s haze season, we face an added challenge – the Covid19 Pandemic, which has seen over 116,871 cases and a death toll of 5,452 in Indonesia.

While the dry season is predicted to be milder than 2019, Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA)’s recent Haze Outlook 2020 report expects this year’s transboundary haze to carry moderate risk as combating the pandemic has caused a diversion of funds and resources from fire prevention and directed towards health services.(1)

Social distancing measures changed how we engage and conduct our training programs. While our Fire-Free Village Program (Masyarakat Bebas Api) has not been primarily affected, we have to take a different communication approach to adapt to a “new normal.” One of them is by communicating through mobile applications and platforms.

As a background, our MBA was started in 2016 to communicate to villages on the importance of a fire-free environment and raise awareness of alternative land preparation methods without burning. Musim Mas has since signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 74 villages around our Group concession area.

Different from the Past

I remember how this time last year in a significantly different environment, our team attended one of the regular MBA fire-prevention training held in Kalimantan. Over 60 people from local communities, local government, Forest Fire Control Brigade, Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), and the fire-fighting department (DAMKAR) attended.

Local communities, local government, Forest Fire Control Brigade, BPBD and DAMKAR were amongst those who attended the training.

Topics on fire-prevention, early detection of fire and monitoring, and suppression methods were covered. We emphasize the importance that local villagers are the first line of defence when there are any fire outbreaks within their communities. The simulation exercise taught villagers how to check and use their fire-fighting equipment safely in the event of any fires.

Simulation exercise of extinguishing fires during our MBA training

As a further incentive to ensure zero-burning, we reward villages that remain fire-free with incentives used for the benefit of villages such as infrastructural  development, or additional fire-fighting equipment.

Everyone Has A Part to Play

Asked how he views the MBA program, Anastasius Delik, Palangan Village Head, shared that the program has educated communities on fire risk, and has motivated them to monitor and prevent fires more effectively. He noted how multi-stakeholder efforts help keep community lands fire-free.

Agus Prawito, Head of Kandan Village, who has been participating in the MBA for three years, mentioned how excited his community was when receiving the fire-fighting equipment they have requested as part of their incentives.

More than ever before, we must ensure villages in our MBA Program are consistently engaged. In addition to reaching out to villagers via digital means constantly, we also put up many banners in villages as a constant reminder to communities on the risk impacts of fires. To further support efforts on the ground, our Sustainability team monitors our concessions and its vicinity daily through the use of available satellite data. We are also a member of the Fire-Free Alliance, where we share fire-prevention measures with other members of the FFA.

We recently published our Musim Mas Fire Prevention Report which details how we prevent and mitigate fires within our own operations, third party suppliers and independent smallholders, which you may refer to here.

“In these extraordinary circumstances like the pandemic, we are also trying to find ways in which we can improve the livelihoods of our immediate surrounding communities. We hope to help cushion the economic shock that may result in the reemergence of unsustainable practices by smallholders and small companies.”, said Olivier Tichit, Director of Sustainable Supply Chain, Musim Mas.