Often, ambitious programs initiated by the central government forget the most important key aspect of success and sustainability, namely the involvement of local communities – who are the communities most affected by the program. This is not the first time the peat area in Central Kalimantan has been projected for a major program. In the mid-1990s, the One Million Hectare Project in peatland (also known as Mega Rice Project, MRP) was implemented, also without the involvement of indigenous and local communities. The results still leave deep pain and trauma, especially for the local population.
In this webinar titled ‘BORNEO UNDER THREAT! (The controversy around Food Estate project in Central Kalimantan)’, representatives of the Dayak Maanyan, the indigenous people in East Barito, share their first-person point of view who experience negative impacts of the unbalanced planning of a program that should be able to contribute positively to the people’s welfare. Although the MRP program was supposed to increase access to food and bring development to the locals, especially to the indigenous people, they were instead oppressed with their rights for lands being deprived. In subsequent years, local people still felt the consequences of the failure of the MRP. The destruction of the existing peat ecosystem causes land fires accompanied by smoke and haze disasters almost every year – which not only causes an increase in people with upper respiratory infection but can also lead to death.
People living in areas where food estate planning is arguably the most important stakeholder whose voices must be weighed. Peatland management without the involvement of local stakeholders will not only hurt the local community, but also the surrounding areas. Mainly, because of fire and smoke generated from the degraded peatland will spread regardless of boundaries. Not to mention, the loss of ecosystem services provided by peatlands.