Residents of Pekanbaru in Riau, Indonesia, have not forgotten the devastating fires and haze that darkened their skies for months over 2014-2015.

“We were surrounded by that suffocating smoke, it was hard for us to breathe,” says Zuli ‘Lulu’ Laili Isnaini, who joined volunteer relief efforts during the crisis.

“The greatest number of victims was found among pregnant women, children and the elderly. A number of schoolchildren died at that time.”

Lulu, who now works for the Disaster Studies Center at the University of Riau, and other community members on the frontline of efforts to prevent fire and haze shared their perspectives at a national policy dialogue in Pekanbaru last month, hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau.

While small communities are sometimes blamed by bigger players for their role in burning land and forests, they are also making an important difference in preventing future disaster. Volunteer fire patrols, communal canal-blocking initiatives to re-wet peatlands and campaigns to change mindsets through education are just some of the steps being taking at the local level to ensure a fire-free future.

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at
This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
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Topic(s) :   Blue carbon, mangroves and peatlands Deforestation Peatlands Community forestry Fire & haze