I chose the program because of the way the program was structured and designed. In addition to providing a full scholarship and a research grant, the USAID Master Fellowship program allows students to work on their thesis project alongside CIFOR scientists.
I aspire to be a scientist focused on socioeconomic aspects of forestry and natural resources management. The program connected me with supportive supervisors who motivated me throughout the entire process. With their guidance, I finished my thesis on “Restoring Degraded Tropical Peatlands, Case Studies from Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.” I am thankful that I also studied at Northern Arizona University, where ecological restoration is a big focus.
I presented my research at two different professional society conferences during my studies. I was humbled to have the chance to delivering a presentation at a leading annual forestry convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I also participated in a poster presentation at the International Society for Tropical Foresters annual conference at Yale University. Recently, some of my research was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Indonesia declared an ambitious plan to restore its degraded and fire‐prone peatlands, which have been a source of significant greenhouse gas and haze. However, the progress has been slow and the plan cannot succeed without sustained social supports and political will. Although many previous studies argued for the need to see ecological restoration in socio‐economic contexts, empirical assessments have been lacking for how restoration is operationalized on the ground. We interviewed 47 key informants involved in four different projects in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, and assessed their definitions, goals, and practices of peatland restoration. Most of the actors we interviewed defined peatland restoration primarily in an ecological context following the global concept of ecological restoration. However, all four restoration projects were designed without determining reference and trajectory conditions. Their intermediate goals and practices were more focused on engaging local communities and developing sustainable livelihood options than improving the ecological conditions of peatlands. To be internally consistent, peatland restoration needs to recognize a social dimension in its process, as well as in its goal. Setting clear trajectory conditions is also important to clarify achievable goals and measurable intermediate outcomes. We propose the following definition of peatland restoration: a process of assisting the recovery of degraded peatland ecosystems to achieve the appropriate trajectories defined through multi‐stakeholder collaboration within social‐ecological contexts. We hope to generate healthy debates to further refine the definition that encompasses both social and ecological dimensions to generate broader support for sustaining and expanding peatland restoration projects in Indonesia.