Fire Management and Prevention

What Causes Fires in Tropical Rainforests?

Human activity, including climate change that results in extreme drought, contributes to the increased risk, frequency, and intensity of forest and peat fires. Human activity can directly cause forest fires for a variety of reasons.

Our Approach to Fire Management and Prevention

Our efforts and approach towards preventing, monitoring, and managing fires are guided by our supply base, split across three domains: Our operations, third-party suppliers, and independent smallholders.

Within these three domains, we analyze and manage fire risk, monitor fires, and conduct assessments according to the elements in Figure 1 below:

Figure 1: Musim Mas’ integrated fire prevention and management strategy

How Has COVID-19 Affected Our Fire Prevention and Management Efforts?

Covid-19 has brought about different challenges and encouraged innovation regarding how fire prevention and management training and engagements are conducted. Before COVID-19, Musim Mas held in-person physical training and large-scale events regularly (at least once a year) to promote fire prevention and management.

While effective at keeping our colleagues safe from COVID-19, safety distancing measures have impeded the progress of fire prevention and management training, events, and outreach. Currently, communities are given leaflets detailing the dangers of fire and how to prevent them, banners reminding communities of how easily fires can spread are hoisted around villages, and training is now held online via Zoom or WhatsApp. Small-scale training and outreach activities are carried out whenever possible, abiding by the appropriate health and safety protocols. Fire patrols are ongoing as usual while still adhering to health protocols such as wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and avoiding big groups.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos of fire-fighting training sessions pre-COVID-19

Read more about our programs here:

Data updated on 31 Jul 2021, for the year 2020.

Zero-Burning Policies
Across our plantations and mills, we adhere to a strict zero-burning policy. This includes all operations as well as waste management. Biomass waste from old oil palms and other organic materials is composted or used to decompose and nurture the soil.

We construct ponds and maintain water sources within our plantations to ensure access to water sources for firefighting. These are separate from the boreholes we have constructed to provide access to clean water for the workers who live on our operations. In some areas we have built fire breaks, to slow the spread, should fires occur.

Monitoring
Our Sustainability and Traceability teams conduct daily hotspot monitoring of our concession and its surrounding area. As hotspots do not necessarily correspond to a land fire, an on-site investigation and verification have to be conducted by foot or via drone for remote areas.

Figure 2: What happens after we detect a hotspot

Over 6 million hectares is monitored daily for hotspots across Indonesia and Malaysia, covering Musim Mas and supplier concessions.

Within Musim Mas concession:
Surrounding Musim Mas concession:
Number of hotspots Number of fires Number of hotspots Number of fires
151 11 289 71

Despite our best efforts to prevent fires, it may still occur due to extreme weather conditions and human activity, such as discarding an unextinguished cigarette butt on a hot and dry day. This is why we invest our resources in hotspot monitoring as well as education and creating an enabling environment to prevent fires from starting.

Fire Management
We maintain teams of highly-trained fire-fighters at each of our plantations, and they assist district and provincial governments with their fire management and prevention efforts. We provide all operations with fire-fighting equipment, ensure all factories are equipped with early warning and fire-fighting systems, and work with local government fire safety centers to carry out regular training for our workers.

Figure 3: Fire-fighting equipment and infrastructure present in Musim Mas’ operations, as of December 2019.

In provinces that are especially susceptible to fires, such as Central Kalimantan, we employ the use of aerial fire-fighting on top of the regular fire-fighting equipment and infrastructure. Our fire-fighting teams also patrol our concessions and a circumference around our concessions. In cases where surrounding communities are unable to manage or mitigate fires, we will extend our fire-fighting expertise and team to them and coordinate with the local government to help them.

Behavioral Change in Communities: Fire-Free Village Program
The role of the communities is paramount in preventing fires as they function as eyes and boots on the ground, especially in areas inaccessible to us. To effect and sustain positive behavioral change, we have nudged the communities to adopt and maintain fire-preventive behavior.

Our Fire-Free Village program (Masyarakat Bebas Api) and training sessions, which are held at least once a year, are extended to the local government, military, police, communities, and staff. During the sessions, we emphasize the need to stop burning land and protect the surrounding area. We also conduct simulations on how fires can start and how to manage them. We educate participants on the negative impacts of fires, beyond health and economic effects, such as school closures due to haze that affect their children’s education or pulmonary disease. Signs warning communities of fire hazards in fire prone areas are also put up. These signs use language that is easily understood and are placed in prominent areas where locals would past by frequently. In these programs, a strong emphasis is placed on the role of the community as an agent of change.

Number of participating villages Hectarage covered by  participating villages Number of training conducted Number of villages awarded for being fire-free
75 468,569 144 32

Musim Mas continues to engage villages in the FFV program on fire prevention and management even if they did not achieve a fire-free year. The social impact of our FFV program is covered here.

Research & Innovation
To improve our monitoring capabilities, we funded the development of a new, publicly available radar-based forest monitoring system known as Radar Alerts for Detecting Deforestation (RADD). The RADD system will augment existing publicly available monitoring tools that rely on optical-based satellite imagery, which can be delayed when clouds obstruct the view of forests. Through the use of radar waves, the new system can penetrate cloud cover and gather forest change information without being affected by clouds or sunlight.

Research from SIIA has pointed to the need to enable smaller producers to mitigate the risk of fires, as they may not have the capacity or knowledge like Musim Mas does. In our engagement with our suppliers, we learned that many are interested in strengthening their ability to prevent and manage fires.

Using our Supplier Assessment Tool (SAT), we conduct a needs assessment of our suppliers against our NDPE (No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation) and sustainability policies, which comprises of our no-burning policy. The SAT includes assessing the risk of fires in the suppliers’ concessions. In 2020, we have conducted 4 supplier workshops, which include informing our suppliers of our no-burning policy and the SAT. While the pandemic has taken away opportunities to meet our suppliers physically, we see this as an opportunity to explore new means of engaging our suppliers, such as via virtual workshops. Such workshops also help achieve a higher degree of consistency in our engagements with suppliers.

Since we launched our sustainability policy in 2014, we have developed an in-house database for monitoring deforestation and hotspots. Through our monitoring system (Figure 4), we analyze and prioritize high-risk and fire-prone areas. We engage suppliers who may have hotspots on their plantations or surrounding the mill areas via our engagement program.

Replanting periods for smallholders could present as a fire risk as slash and burn practices to clear old oil palm and land are cheaper. It is estimated that replanting costs amount to IDR 50-60 million (USD 3,400 – 4,100) per hectare, which could be a struggle for smallholders without financial assistance.

Besides teaching about the dangers and impacts of fire, our smallholder program appreciates the need for better financial management by smallholders and includes modules on financial literacy. Our smallholder program was developed jointly with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), member of the World Bank. Smallholders are taught best management practices and the use of no-fire to replant their old oil palm. We also link smallholders to banks and the Indonesian Oil Palm Plantation Fund Management Agency (BPDPKS), and provide administrative support in their financial assistance application. More here. This financial assistance encourages smallholders to adopt more sustainable methods of replanting and improves their productivity per hectare.

In our smallholder program, we encourage smallholders to use organic litter as a compost or a way to reduce soil and nutrient erosion instead of burning. We also ensure that smallholders are aware of the government’s rules and regulations in relation to burning. Farmer group training sessions are used to highlight the dangers of fire. Our program also encourages smallholders to explore alternative livelihoods or income sources (such as cattle rearing or growing other crops). This is because they may face decreased income during the replanting period, as it takes two to three years for the young oil palms to bear fruit. As one of the program’s milestone is for smallholders to undergo sustainability certification, our modules are developed to mirror RSPO’s (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Principles and Criteria that have a strict zero burning policy.

As of April 2021, we have trained 37,206 smallholders with a combined farm area of 72,711 ha, and helped 2,092 smallholders receive their RSPO certification.

     

Multi-stakeholder Collaborations
Musim Mas is a founding member of the Fire Free Alliance (FFA), a multi-stakeholder platform supporting the Indonesian government’s commitment to a haze-free ASEAN region. Within this platform, members, who constitute the agriculture and forestry sectors, share their fire-fighting expertise and conduct training.

Science-based Initiatives
In 2019, we completed a programme with Universitas Riau (UNRI) on a composting model that was adopted by three nearby villages. Through this initiative, we taught community members how to compost organic waste and ensure their lands are kept free from fire.

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