West Kalimantan province in Indonesia has launched a new programme training villagers to track and fight forest fires.

Without standardised maps, Indonesian government agencies have used their own maps for planning, leading to overlapping permits and ambiguous boundaries across the country. This has allowed illegal forest fires to thrive.

West Kalimantan has launched a new programme asking villages to create their own maps. This encourages residents to take responsibility for protecting the land around them, and could also be used by the provincial government to better plan land use.

The “fire alert village” programme trains residents to track and map the locations of forest fires around them. They will then send this data to government response teams via emails and text messages. Drones will also be used to monitor fires where it is not possible to reach by roads.

Communities are also being asked to map their village boundaries so the provincial government can understand which parts of land each village is responsible for protecting.

The programme will be launched in eight villages in West Kalimantan’s Nanga Tayap district. 15 residents will be selected and trained from each village.

Each village will be given equipment to put off fires and the selected group of 15 will be trained to use these tools. Farmers will also be asked to use more sustainable fertilisers and better manage water.

The West Kalimantan government has partnered with SMART, an Indonesian palm oil producer, to implement the project.

The programme will go on for three years, during which villages will be evaluated annually by the local government. The ones that show the best results in preventing forest fires will be awarded with infrastructure from SMART.

Outside of West Kalimantan, the programme will be expanded to nine villages in Jambi province next month.