Published: 04/02/2016

The data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) records a massive loss of tree covers in peat lands in Pelalawan Regency and Siak Regency, Riau, which could lead to prolonged forest fires. Currently, the proportion of degraded forests is much larger than the proportion of natural ones, potentially causing an extended impact on women who are highly dependent on forest conditions. The increasingly fast rate of deforestation each year is triggered by the large number of concessions granted to plantation and forest-based companies, thus limiting the people’s access to forests and natural resources.

The impact of forest concessions on women is significant. The escalation of forest damages causes a crisis of food and other forest-sourced necessities. Land conversion, worsened by forest degradation, restricts women’s access and food resources.

The lack of energy sources also hinders women’s daily tasks, especially since they are laden with household chores. As electricity can only be accessed at night, women are forced to carry out their domestic activities in the evening. The limited access to energy sources result in the increase of household expenses, as the locals must spend quite a lot on the diesel for generators to fulfill their needs for electricity.

Since there is minimal public service for education, the people are burdened with additional transportation costs to reach schools that are usually located far away. Another issue is the access to reproductive health services, an urgent necessity particularly for women, due to the lengthy travel distance to health facilities and limited health workers. There is only one Village Clinic with uncertain opening hours to meet the healthcare needs of the community.
The public’s health is strongly related to the infrastructure around concession areas, and this is mirrored in the conditions of the roads. The poor condition of the roads creates clouds of dust during the dry season which enter the people’s houses and infiltrate their kitchens. The unhealthy air quality is hazardous and causes respiratory problems. Many children are afflicted with acute respiratory infections (ISPA) due to the thick clouds of dust.
Unknown to many, women are most affected by the various problems caused by the mismanagement of natural resources. This is because they are usually given the responsibility to fulfill the family’s needs of food, education, health, and processed natural resources.

Ironically, women are hardly involved in village meetings or discussions related to the advocacy process and decision-making related to land management, despite the fact that they are actively involved in the process of land management itself. Women should be included in the advocacy and decision-making processes on land usage and concessions, in order to enable them voice out their needs and interests. ***