Frequent and widespread fires have affected Indonesia’s tropical rainforest regions over the last two decades. Smoke and haze from these fires often blanketed the Southeast Asian region. Many international and national research and development projects were initiated after the big El Niño fires and associated regional smoke and haze. The international community and national NGOs expressed concern about health and visibility problems, economic losses, deforestation and forest degradation, biodiversity loss, and carbon emissions. Much of the effort was directed at fire monitoring, providing early warning systems, and developing fire suppression capabilities at the local government, corporate and community levels.
However there was also a felt need for understanding and addressing the underlying causes of the fires in order to find a more permanent solution for the problem. With this prerogative in mind, CIFOR and ICRAF were commissioned to jointly undertake research on the underlying causes and impacts of fires in Indonesia, and come up with management and policy recommendations to reduce unwanted fires and minimise the negative impacts.