From perceptions and discourses to policy content: A mixed method analysis of peatland fire management in Indonesia

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Key messages

  • Tropical peatlands are undergoing rapid and radical land-use changes in which fire is often used in land preparation for agriculture at different scales. Burdens of escaped peat fires, including infringements on quality of life and health, economic losses, diplomatic tensions and environmental damage, cross scales (local to global) and sectors (e.g. economy, environment, public health). They generate considerable concern for diverse stakeholders.
  • This brief summarizes findings from three linked research activities in the context of peatland fire management in Indonesia, specifically: (i) media discourse analysis from media sources at provincial to international scales; (ii) policy content analysis of fire management interventions (FMI); and (iii) Q method to understand stakeholder perceptions across scales.
  • All media endorse governance-based measures led by the Government of Indonesia (GoI) and the Indonesian media support the role of international/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) governance discourses. However, blame and solution discourses differ between scales of media. There is a pervasive misalignment between cause and solution.
  • Policy content analysis shows that fire prevention has dominated FMI since 1998 and may provide a basis for contemporary action toward fire prevention. However, policies are limited by a lack of nuance. For example, they are not specific to soil type, landholder type or fire season.
  • Evidence suggests that multiple stakeholder types are relevant to the prevalence of peat fires, from policy makers to local elites, and from absentee landholders to small-scale farmers. Fundamental differences in the perceptions of these key groups regarding the solutions to peatland fires represent a significant challenge to policy performance.
  • Overall, these analyses suggest a need to better capture and address the multiplicity of actors associated with peat fires. Accounting for stakeholder-specific roles in fire attribution and their differentiated capacity for change would enable more targeted policy measures, and likely improved performance of FMI.


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