a. Loss of Livelihood Options for Local Communities
Degradation of peatlands entails the loss of biodiversity and other ecological functions of the peatlands. On the other hand, there are people whose livelihoods depend on peatlands and their biodiversity. People have been utilizing peatlands for its fishery, timber and non-timber forest products, for other agricultural products and as reserve areas for agricultural extension. Once degraded, it is almost impossible for peatlands to return to its undisturbed state. This means the loss of a source of livelihood for the local people.
b. Insufficient Government Guide to Local Communities in Peatland Management
Until recently, there were no guidelines for farmers, owners or managers of peatlands on how to manage peatland areas. The only available documents were those that related to canal blocking and zero and controlled burning. However, burning techniques in land preparation and over-drainage are still practised and are damaging peatlands. As a result, technical problems including low fertility and subsidence commonly occur. These failures have caused farmers to abandon their lands.
c. Unclear Access Rights and Marginalization of Local Communities
The issuance of regulations on district autonomy (UU No 22/1999) in Indonesia has devoluted essential ‘power’ of the Central Government to District Governments. This has included authority in land use designation. One consequence of this regulation is that district governments now have to generate their own funding and cannot rely on national budgets for their operation. This has, of course, led to the selection for large scale oil palm plantation, timber extraction and other large scale companies to generate a better income and to help boost the local economy, without any consideration of the longer term effects of some of these options.
This regulation has further alienated local communities, who do little to contribute to the local government coffers. Their struggles of dealing with agriculture on peat soils as compared to mineral soils receive little attention and they continue to reap little benefit in cultivating peat areas.
d. Insufficient Income Generation Opportunities for Peatland Communities
Peatlands are marginally suitable for agriculture. Most of people living inside and around peatlands area are relatively poor and possess only primary level of education. They have limited options for employment to meet their economic needs. The quick and easy option for them is carrying out cheap land conversion, by burning or collecting timber and non-timber products. Introducing sustainable income generating activities would provide more options for the local communities and could potentially contribute to solving some social problems related to peatland management.
One example is the WI-IP project in the buffer zone of Berbak National Park that provided small grants to the local community to plant cultivation commodities such as cacao, rubber, pineapple and other plants to shift the livelihoods of the local people from being illegal loggers to permanent agriculture farmers.