Living in harmony with peatlands (Part 1)

Pineapples, Indonesia. Photo by Aris Sanjaya/CIFOR

Pineapples on peatland: A win-win solution for farmers and the environment through paludiculture and action research

Pineapples on peatland? The idea seems farfetched, especially as a way to restore degraded peat. But it’s already a reality in Dompas, an Indonesian village 200km west of Singapore across the Malacca Strait on the island of Sumatra.

For locals, the pineapples represent an important transformation that has helped improve their health, the environment as well as providing income and jobs. “In the future there will be a lot of benefits” from planting pineapples on the degraded peatland in and around the village, said Norwati, a member of a group of women participating in an action-research project led by CIFOR-ICRAF.

Through the project, Norwati and the other villagers have learned techniques and gained insights to make decisions about managing peatland more sustainably in the hope that this knowledge will help them avoid the kind of devastating fires that have become commonplace in recent decades.

Pineapples, Indonesia. Photo by Aris Sanjaya/CIFOR

Of the 4.4 million hectares of peatland in Riau province, only one million hectares are left. To reverse that trend, a range of stakeholders are working together to restore Dompas’s peat, whose qualities include the ability to absorb vast amounts of water and carbon and thus regulate floods and tackle climate change. Peat sequesters more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem, a fact that Indonesia is trying to harness as it seeks to contribute to global GHG reduction efforts as part of its contributions to the Paris Accord.

“The awareness of how to manage peatlands has increased,” said Purnomo.  “Now the villagers understand that there is another way to use peatlands in eco-friendly ways. And importantly, they can put this knowledge into action. We’re at the stage of how to actually restore peatlands – technically, economically and socially.”

In part 2 of Pineapples and Peatlands, we will look at how CIFOR-ICRAF and partners worked on the ground to put tools and knowledge into the hands of locals.