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Indonesia Indonesia Indonesia
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Indonesia is composed of 13,667 islands--five main islands (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya), two major archipelagos (Nusa Tenggara and Maluku Islands), and sixty smaller archipelagos. The islands are mountainous with some peaks reaching 3,800 meters above sea level in western islands and as high as 5,000 meters in Irian Jaya. The climate ranges from tropical, hot, humid to a more moderate climate in the highlands.

Indonesia is also rich in biodiversity. Indonesia forests cover approximately 60 percent of the land, which includes 10 percent of all tropical forests in the world.

Indonesia is home to:

  • 11 percent of the world's flowering plants,
  • 12 percent of the world's mammals,
  • 15 percent of all amphibians and reptiles,
  • 17 percent of all birds, and
  • 37 percent of the world's fish.

Some of the animals that live in the forests of Indonesia include: the Sumatran tiger, Komodo dragon, babi rusa, anoa, Macacanigra, and the Badak Jaw.

In addition to the wildlife, Indonesia's forests are also vital to the country's economy. Indonesia was once the premier exporter of plywood in the world. Local villages derive their main incomes from forest products (i.e., rattan), which are also exported.

Three main commercial sectors of Indonesia include rice-growing in the valleys and plains of Sumatra, Java, and Bali; the largely coastal commercial sector; and more marginal upland forest farming communities which exist by means of subsistence swidden agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of Indonesia's population lives in rural areas. Rice dominates production but cassava, corn, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and fruits are important, as are estate crops such as sugar, coffee, peanuts, soybeans, rubber, oil palm, and coconuts. Indonesia also produces steel, aluminum and cement, and exports oil.

Threats to the Forests
Indonesia's biodiverse forests are facing severe threats of deforestation, soil degradation, and massive forest fires resulting from intensive commercial and illegal logging, plantation development and slash and burn practices. In the mid-1980s, the government developed forestry management plans to promote conservation and better management practices; however, these plans were never implemented. At the same time, banks were financing the over-capacity of forest industry beyond the supply of wood--
wood that could have come from sustainable managed sources.

Why Does the USDA Forest Service Work in Indonesia?
The threats to Indonesia's vast and biodiverse forests affect both global and local environments and economies. Just a few years ago severe forest fires throughout Indonesia led to extremely hazardous air pollution conditions in Indonesia's cities and towns, creating health problems for many residents, as well as threatening lives and damaging forest resources. USDA Forest Service fire specialists were brought in during the fires to help the Indonesia Department of Forestry manage the fires and develop a better system for fire response and control.

In response to the situation, the Southeast Asia Environment Initiative and the East Asia and Pacific Environmental Initiative provided funding in 1998 and 1999 for the USDA Forest Service to assist and strengthen fire management in Southeast Asia with a primary emphasis on Indonesia. Consequently, the Strengthening Fire Management Program has been instrumental in creating a cadre of Indonesians who are capable of responding to and managing future catastrophic fires.

Commercial and illegal logging is also a major threat to forest resources. In response, the USDA Forest Service International Programs--in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and others-- is assisting in activities that help adopt reduced impact harvesting techniques and practices throughout the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission.

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Fire Management

The severe 1997 and 1998 Southeast Asia fire and haze event highlighted the need for effective, well-planned, and coordinated response mechanisms with local, national and regional implementation capacity. As a result of this fire and haze event, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Haze Technical Task Force (HTTF) developed a Regional Haze Action Plan (RHAP) comprised of three key focus areas; monitoring, prevention, and mitigation. The USDA Forest Service (USFS) initially identified the mitigation component as an area in which USFS technical skills could contribute to efforts addressing the fire and haze problems. Consequently, the majority of USFS Program activities have been conducted in partnership with the ASEAN/HTTP/Coordination and Support Unit (CSU).

The theme and purpose of the USFS Program has been to identify and implement activities to build capacity for appropriate fire management response. The strategic goals have been to: 1) introduce fire management models and processes; 2) evaluate and test the utility of these models and processes in the Southeast Asian environment; and 3) encourage replication and institutionalization of the adapted models and processes. As part of the total Program, the USFS has supported various activities, all of which can be reviewed by reading the complete program report (link). However, the Program focus was on three major activities: Regional Assessments; Fire Suppression and Mobilization Plans; and Fire Simulation Exercises.

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Regional Assessments
In 1998 USFS provided expertise in designing, developing terms of reference, coordinating, and implementing an analysis of forest and land fire suppression capabilities. Assessment teams were deployed in Indonesia (Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Jawa), Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, and Singapore. The three teams assessing capacity in Indonesian provinces were designed to build in-country capacity for this type of activity. These teams were led by Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops employees and included representatives from the Indonesian National Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDAL). Technical expertise for the Sumatra and Kalimantan teams was provided by fire specialists from the USFS, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service of Australia. The team assessing suppression capability on Java consisted entirely of Indonesians trained in the assessment process.

Teams assessing fire suppression capabilities in other ASEAN countries were composed of international fire specialists from the USFS and the Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management unit of Canada. The results of these assessments were documented in seven reports entitled Analysis of Forest and Land Fire Suppression Capabilities with the respective areas of coverage indicated. These reports were synthesized and presented to the ASEAN HTTF members, as well as to interested Indonesian agencies and donor countries. The information from the assessments greatly enhanced both the regional understanding and donor country's understanding of fire and haze related problems.

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Fire Suppression and Mobilization Plans
The Fire Suppression and Mobilization Plans (FSMP) were catalyzed, designed, and implemented for a pilot Fire Suppression Mobilization Plan in the provinces of Riau and South Sumatra, Indonesia in1999. Those involved in this pilot plan represented Indonesian agencies responsible for various aspects of fire management as well as two fire management specialists from the USFS. A significant outcome of this activity was the strengthened capacity of team members for developing mobilization plans. The information provided through the process of mobilization planning was the basis for identifying strengths and weaknesses within the existing fire suppression system.

During 2000, pilot provincial Fire Suppression Mobilization Plans were developed for two districts in South Kalimantan, Indonesia and three districts in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Interagency teams, led by Indonesian provincial officials, collected information and developed these plans with USFS technical assistance. The output from this activity increased the capacity of provincial/district officials to recognize and utilize Indonesian fire suppression resources, and created a prototype Fire Suppression Mobilization Plan, which identified resources and processes to mobilize for fire suppression. During 2001, the USFS partnered with the Integrated Forest Fire Management Project/German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to develop a Fire Suppression Mobilization Plan for Kutai Barat District in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The same implementation model from previous Fire Suppression Mobilization Plan activities was applied by a provincial interagency team and technical experts from the USFS and GTZ. In 2002, a similar Fire Suppression Mobilization Plan activity was conducted in Jambi province, Indonesia.

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Fire Simulation Exercises
The Fire Simulation Exercise activities began with the development and implementation of an exercise in the Kampar District of Riau Province, Indonesia. The objective of this activity was to strengthen the existing provincial and district level institutional structures for fire suppression. This first practical simulation exercise served as a valuable learning experience for both the simulation team and the participants and it helped to develop a process for future exercises. Subsequently, this technical simulation exercise package was replicated in the districts of Riau, South Sumatra, and West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

During 2001, the USFS designed, facilitated, and implemented a National Level Fire Simulation exercise in Indonesia. The exercise was linked and conducted simultaneously at three levels of government: national, provincial, and district. Six key institutions participated in this exercise: National Disaster Management Coordinating Board (BAKORNAS PBP), Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, BAPEDAL, South Sumatra provincial government, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Prior to this exercise, the three national agencies responsible for fire response, BAKORNAS PBP, Ministry of Forestry, and BAPEDAL had not interacted in the context of a national fire disaster. As a result of this simulation exercise, these key agencies clarified roles, responsibilities, interrelationships, and how they will work together in the event of such a disaster.

A Sub-Regional Fire Simulation Exercise is currently planned for 2003. This exercise will take place under the auspices of the ASEAN/HTTP Sub-Regional Fire Fighting Arrangements (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore). The USFS has provided a technical specialist to assist in designing this exercise. It is anticipated that the exercise will test each country's Standard Operating Procedures and the guidelines for offering and receiving assistance found in the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. (To find out more about the ASEAN Haze Technical Task Force and the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution click on this link -

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Related Publications:
If you would like to know more about the technical aspects of our fire management program, click here:

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