Socio-economic linkages of rural poverty and forest fire phenomena in a development scenario of peatland rehabilitation and agribusiness revitalisation in Central Kalimantan

Fachrurrozie Sjarkowi

After Wise Use – The Future of Peatlands, Proceedings of the 13th International Peat Congress: Tropical Peatlands

family-labour, peatland-ecosystem, rural-poverty, social-forestry

Sjarkowi et al. 2008: Socio-economic linkages of rural poverty and forest fire phenomena


In an isolated peatland forest agro-ecosystem characterised by a relatively closed socio-economic set-up, rural poverty and forest fire incidents tend to be closely interrelated and mutually influencing factors. From the standpoint of poverty, unfavourable economic conditions associated with insufficient family income encourage more people to get involved in extensive illegal logging, which could eventually destroy various ecological functions and make the peatland ecosystem more vulnerable and prone to fire. It can be shown that the marginal productivity value of labour (MPV) dedicated to intensive farming in such peatland agro-ecosystems is certainly smaller than the comparable MPV of labour for illegal logging. On the other hand, extensive peatland and forest fires, once they spread over the ecosystem, bring negative impacts to people and their farming plots including increased incidence of drought and flooding on agricultural land. In a traditional and labour-intensive farming activity, two changes can be measured, namely: (1) agricultural labour productivity (t ha-1 yr-1) appears to decrease over time, even taking into account women’s and children’s labour contributions; (2) additional family labour (e.g. from grandparents, wives and children) measured in terms of man-working-days (MWD) has to be devoted to dealing with forest fire-related activities at particular times (notably during and after fire/flooding events), which takes effort away from dealing with more important poverty-related problems. Consequently there is an urgent need to investigate socio-economic responses to agricultural or non-agricul- tural-based programmes on poverty eradication. In addition, forest fire management must be designed carefully to match the household labour availability. The action plan (for restoration and rehabilitation of the former Mega Rice Project) should therefore take into consideration: (1) periodic distribution of family labour avail- ability during ‘normal’ and ‘below-normal’ scenarios; (2) the extent of increased income and gendered labour productivity expected to result from a particular remedial programme.