Livelihoods Research

How can farmers and local communities continue to grow crops on fully rewetted peatlands without loss of livelihoods?

The scheduled rewetting of large areas of peatland demands that sustainable and scalable alternative livelihood options and business models are associated with the restoration of the degraded peat. Our livelihoods research is evaluating the potential of various agricultural, agroforestry and forestry production systems for farmers living on rewetted peatlands. Sustainable livelihood options in rewetted peatlands depend upon the development of peat-friendly agroforestry, fisheries and peat-friendly crops and appropriate business models that allow for smallholder engagement in new value chains for new commodities. These alternative models need to utilise peatland species that can survive in fully rewetted peatlands and can reliably feed into a value chain. For example, the production of jelutung for latex, illipe for nut and butter, and sago which is cultivated in various parts of Indonesia each have considerable economic potential. Thus, alternative agricultural crop options each require an assessment of their potential market chains and market values. Having good value chain analyses of a variety of peat-friendly commodities will also stimulate other actors to think about establishing alternative product processing industries.

Alternative agricultural livelihoods including paludiculture, aquaculture and livestock can all provide additional income to peatland communities. Once the most effective systems and models have been determined, they must be regulated and effectively socialized to stakeholders, so that the adverse impacts from peat fires may be reduced, and the economic prospects for local communities may be improved. Alternative livelihood strategies must also include longer term solutions such as agroforestry or forestry systems, furthermore communities must have the confidence to plant more wetland species and embrace the change to rewetting. By identifying suitable alternative livelihoods with low fire risks, and by promoting and enabling sustainable livelihoods in peatlands, we aim to improve the economic prospects of communities that are currently living on drained peatland and increase the social acceptability of peatland restoration.

The target audiences for our research outputs on alternative livelihoods are the range of government service agencies for different sectors such as Fisheries Service (Dinas Perikanan), Environmental Service (Dinas Lingkungan Hidup, DLH), Forestry Service (Dinas Kehutanan, DISHUT), Agriculture and Food Security Service (Dinas Pertanian dan Ketahanan Pangan), Plantations Service (Dinas Perkebunan), and so on. The Dinas groups are both important and influential actors and act as gatekeepers to action and budget resources. Our research findings may assist these Dinas groups to do a number of things differently including: extension training, supporting new market development, and providing other material support. 

Our livelihoods research is using the ‘Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment’ (RAPTA) framework to guide project engagement with high level stakeholders. Furthermore, at the community level, the Community Led Adaptation and Planning (CLAP) approach was employed to gain a deep understanding of the community situation, needs and wants around peatland management. This community level research resulted in reports describing the existing livelihoods of the communities in peatland areas in Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra. This process began by using Participatory Rural Appraisal tools to better understand existing livelihood strategies in the target communities. In Central Kalimantan, a CLAP event was the entry point for our village-based research in Tumbang Nusa in March 2019. For a detailed description of the process and outputs, please see the CLAP report under Our Resources.