Fire and Sustainable Agricultural and Forestry Development in Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia (IFFN No. 21 – September 1999)

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Workshop

Fire and Sustainable Agricultural and Forestry Development in Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia

13-15 April 1999 – Darwin, Australia

(IFFN No. 21 – September 1999,p. 95-96)

Northern Territory University (NTU), Darwin, Australia was host to a highly successful workshop in April on the constructive use of fire for sustainable land management in eastern Indonesia and northern Australia. The workshop was part of a project coordinated by NTU and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The workshop was also supported by the Tropical Savannas CRC, Bushfires Council of NT and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The workshop brought together more than 50 delegates from government and non-government agencies and universities in Indonesia and Australia.

Workshop presentations and discussions demonstrated that fire is an integral component of savanna environments and the constructive use of fire has a vital role in sustainable land management. Some current fire practices are undesirable for social, economic and ecological reasons. Eastern Indonesia includes some of the poorest and least developed of Indonesia’s provinces and most of the population relies on subsistence agriculture. Environmental degradation results from poor fire management practices and the people living on that land are “trapped in a poverty cycle”.

Workshop participants were committed to further cooperation and collaboration. Future research and training projects on fire management in the region are planned with the aim of improving living standards.

The existing knowledge base of fire management in the region includes:

  • remotely sensing images of fires, with fire histories derived from these images for areas of northern Australia (courtesy of NTU, Bushfires Council NT and other CRC partners)
  • some assessment and predictive understanding of the impacts of different fire regimes on the environment of northern Australia (including grazing productivity and maintenance of biodiversity) (DPIF, CSIRO), and
  • some traditional burning practices in northern Australia (NLC).

The major deficiencies in the knowledge base include:

  • limited use of existing remote sensing images and technologies in eastern Indonesia,
  • insufficient assessment of the impacts of different fire and grazing regimes for various ecosystems and land use systems,
  • few records of traditional burning practices with little critical assessment of the appropriateness of practices for current situations.

Future collaborations will address these deficiencies. Burning practices will be developed for land sustainability. They will be tailored to suit the resource base, cultural restraints and the land types and land uses in eastern Indonesia and northern Australia.

Papers presented covered a wide spectrum of topics, including issues of land use, management of fuel and fire, atmospheric indicators and the role of remote sensing. Many presented position papers describing particular areas in eastern Indonesia or northern Australia, highlighting the issues of traditional practices in the use of fire and their implications for land management.

Proceedings are in preparation and will be in print in early 2000. All workshop participants will receive a complimentary copy and they are available free of charge to any scientist, administrator or research institution library from a developing country with a legitimate need. Please write to

The Communications Manager
ACIAR, GPO Box 1571
Canberra ACT 2601
or e-mail

There is a charge for others not covered by the above criteria. No price is available as yet. Ordering details, when available, will be posted on ACIAR’s web site:

Bronwyn Myers
Northern Territory University
Science, Building 18
Darwin 0909, Northern Territory

Fax: ++61-8-8946-7088
Tel: ++61-8-8946-6901

IFFN No. 21

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