Indonesia Rokan Hilir. As forest fires continue to plague Riau, farmers in Rokan Hilir district took it upon themselves to find a more efficient way to combat the problem by using homemade organic fertilizer.
With the help of Riau University, farmers have been using ferns, locally known as pakis which are considered a weed in palm oil plantations as their main source for the fertilizer.
The ferns are mixed with brown sugar, coconut water, leftover rice water and chicken manure and covered for three weeks to allow the active ingredients to act.
“Usually the ferns are burnt [by the farmers] during the dry season, but by making use of it [as fertilizer], reduces the possibility of fires,” Riau University researcher Besri Nasrul said. “Farmers would need to check for moisture levels weekly for the compost to be processed.”
The initiative is part of the university’s collaboration with palm oil firm Minamas Plantation to empower Menggala Teladan village to deal with forest fires on their own.
Riau University has been working closely with the farmers and villagers for six months to educate them on proper forest fire management and to eliminate slash-and-burn practices.
“What we found is that theory does not work they are more partial to hands-on practice,” Besri said. “And another thing is to find key influencers in the village, which does not necessarily mean the village head.”
Besri said slash-and-burn practices are still rampant as it is a cheaper, faster solution.
This is the second initiative by Minamas after another in Kalimantan, as it is part of its efforts to have zero fires within a 5-kilometer radius of its plantations.