Despite the international dispute regarding peatland agriculture, its cultivation practices are still carried on in many parts of the world, including Indonesia. Various stakeholders – from the large corporations, smallholder farmers, and of course the government – are involved in this sector. In particular for the smallholder farmers, many households are actually depended on cultivating peatland. Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) along with SMERU Research Institute and Australian National University (ANU) organized a workshop to explore this matter. The workshop of “Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Science” was divided into three sessions with three different subthemes: traditional farming, review on law and policy, and alternative sustainable practice.

In the first session, the study case of Dayak Ngaju (Central Kalimantan) was presented. There, the local values are being understood and recognized as guidance in the farming business. Their traditional ways of farming are including moving farming area based on customary ritual and doing land clearing with a slash and controlled burning technic. The locals consider that it is the cheapest and fastest method with the assumption that ashes improve soil fertility and add more nutrients to it. Forest fire risk is reduced by combining science and local wisdom of small scale controlled land burning. This session also pointed out the issue of large-scale agriculture that often negatively affected the locals in the surrounding concession area. Some cases mentioned that large companies’ canal systems block the water outflow during dry season and drain large volume of water during rainy season. These result in both drought and flooding in the neighbouring villages.

The second session discussed regulations relevant to peatland cultivation. The Ministry of Forestry and Environment (KLHK) and Peatland Restoration Agency stated that they are working on a land swap mechanism and a moratorium in which KLHK will no longer issue new permit over primary forest and will review the approved land permit. Currently, some regulations are being implemented to monitor peatland concession, including PP 57/2016 on peat water table that should not exceed 40 cm. In some cases, the prevailing laws may harm the economic aspect of the farmers to some degree, but it needs to be done for a better ecosystem. Therefore, it is necessary to always review and update the components of law.

Alternative practices were discussed in the last session of the event, including paludiculture and agrosilvofishery. It was underlined that peat cultivation should be aimed to yield the optimum result, not the maximum. The pilot projects in OKI District (South Sumatra) and among Dayak community comprised of growing Jelutung and building fish ponds on some spots in the canal. Since the concept of paludiculture is new, there is a possibility that the definition and practice will keep evolving. Therefore, the workshop was concluded by highlighting the need for this kind of forum to keep all the relevant stakeholders updated.