Co-evolving perceptions on Central Kalimantan degraded peatlands: case study from CIFOR bioenergy research

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This paper explains how local and extra-local perspectives interact to co-produce new interventions on tropical peatlands. By historicizing past attempts in peatland repurposing project and bioenergy development program, both state and non-state apparatus have reinvented their imagination to repurpose peatlands as a valuable landscape for carbon sequestration and green energy development. Meanwhile, the frequent reinventions of development program on peatland landscape emerges local skepticism towards external intervention. One of the tangential policies for repurposing peatlands is the prohibition of the use of fire to manage lands. While this policy is an important milestone to decrease peatland fires, the implementation of this policy also restricts farmers to efficiently use their labor for clearing their lands, in which peatlands are increasingly left unproductive for extensive cultivation. While farmers see these consequences as dystopian, development apparatus perceive and render this problem a potential avenue for their utopian intervention projects. The interaction of these perspectives renders peatlands a valuable landscape for state policy experimentation, or a landscape to experiment on new proposed solutions. By analyzing the case from CIFOR bioenergy research in Buntoi Village, Central Kalimantan, this paper highlights the importance for development apparatus to assume the active role in finding the middle ground between permitting the use of fire for cultivation, restoring degraded peatlands, and following on global climate mitigation agenda by increasing carbon sequestration within peatlands. Lastly, a less-rigid approach on fire prohibition policy can better serve the overarching attempt to restore degraded peatlands.

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