Sustainable Livelihoods in Indonesian Tropical Peatlands

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Sch of Geog, Geol & the Environment


This fellowship focuses on sustainable livelihoods in Indonesian tropical peatlands to support poverty alleviation, increased food security and biocultural conservation. This fellowship provides an important opportunity to build upon past and current research on peatland livelihoods, both from my PhD research and through collaboration with current projects being undertaken by the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham. I will do so by tackling recommendations provided from my PhD to consider the opportunities of aquaculture in degraded peatland landscapes to support sustainable livelihoods. This focus is timely and provides productive synergies with ongoing projects at the University of Leicester, University of Nottingham, and the Indonesian Government's Peatland Restoration Agency (e.g. Sustainpeat and PASSES projects). This allows me to build on my PhD research through allowing me to consider a wider range of communities with different properties and different land management approaches in Central Kalimantan. The results from this will directly inform future projects and funding proposals and will feed directly into additional publications that I will write during this fellowship.

The proposed research for this fellowship targets two of the ESRC's research priorities in particular: Productivity and Climate Change. Tropical peatlands are one of the Earth's most spatially efficient terrestrial carbon sinks and Indonesia is home to the greatest extent of these habitats worldwide. However, peatlands in Indonesia are facing numerous threats from human pressures, including drainage, burning and conversion to agriculture and plantations (e.g. palm oil and paper pulp). Exploitation of peatlands is driven by the short term economic needs of smallholder communities as well as larger industries, but this contributes to serious carbon emissions and climate change. Communities located in peatlands suffer from high levels of poverty linked to resource degradation, low agricultural productivity and marginalisation. Climate change will further impact the resilience of these communities. Fishing is one of the main sources of livelihood and protein in Central Kalimantan, and often supports some of the poorest members of society. Nevertheless, fish and fishing livelihoods in Borneo have received little research attention in the past which is why I decided to focus on these aspects for my PhD and continue to do so for this fellowship. It is vital to improve our understanding of the linkages between livelihoods, peatland and forest degradation, community resilience, poverty alleviation and sustainable management of peatlands. The research priorities of Productivity and Climate Change are closely linked in tropical peatland landscapes, and the research that I propose for this fellowship will further elucidate this linkages.

My research takes an ambitious interdisciplinary approach to understanding complex socio-ecological systems to support more holistic approaches to conservation. It also has research impact at its heart. For this fellowship, this will include amongst other activities writing and publishing journal articles, attending and presenting at meetings and conferences, and for non-academic audiences; writing articles, blog posts and giving presentations about the importance of tropical peatlands. This will enable me to share my expertise of social science for conservation, as well as my experience of working in communities living in peatland landscapes. This fellowship will also allow me to engage in vital knowledge exchange and co-production activities with local communities in Indonesian Borneo.

In sum, the fellowship enables me to engage with and contribute my expertise to ongoing research programmes, while also developing my own independent research career path in a meaningful way that supports both the breadth and depth of its impact.


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