Brother Against Brother: The Tale of Two Ministries in Managing Landscape Fire

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Fires occur in the forest and cultivation areas in Indonesia especially during the dry season, which worsens during the El Nino Southern Oscillation phenomenon, had become a chronic and regular calamity in Indonesia. The fire is most notably happened in the two main islands: Sumatra and Kalimantan. The number of incidents of forest fire has increased with the expansion of the palm oil plantation sector, encroaching peat lands that contain organic materials which are susceptible to fire.
Landscape fire issues are addressed by different ministries, technical state agencies, and local governments. Two ministries are focal points for mitigating landscape fire issue: the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for fires in the agricultural cultivation area. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is responsible for fires in the forest areas, whether used for conservation or production. Both ministries use different terms for the landscape fire: the Ministry of Agriculture refers to kebakaran lahan (or cultivation land fire) whereas the Ministry of Environment and Forestry speaks of kebakaran hutan (forest fire). Possibly to reflect the importance of both ministries to coordinate their fight against forest fires, the term of karhutla (abbreviation of kebakaran hutan dan lahan or forest and cultivation land fire) was used.
This paper aims to contribute to the debate of the role of the state in governing landscape fires in Indonesia by focussing on the roles of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in improving forest fire mitigation since 2014. Since 2014 both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry have taken various initiatives for improving landscape fire mitigation in Indonesia. Previously, the concentrated effort from the Ministry of Forestry relied on the role of Manggala Agni focusing on fire in the conservation areas. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture strengthened the ministry level by developing Sub Direktorat Dampak Perubahan Iklim dan Pencegahan Kebakaran (Sub Directorate of Climate Change Impacts and Fire Prevention) and the monitoring and supervision of the plantation companies.
In the Ministry of Agriculture, the fire mitigation management was strengthened at the ministry level by establishing the Direktorat Perlindungan Perkebunan (Plantation Protection Directorate) in the Directorate General of Plantation. The Ministry of Agriculture later initiated the participatory program for strengthening the farmer groups in the Kelompok Tani Peduli Api (Fire Care Farmer Group). The participatory model of Masyarakat Peduli Api (Fire Care Community), which was developed by the Ministry of Environment, is adopted in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry after the merger of the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Environment.
The central question of this article is: what are the different responses developed by the two ministries to manage the landscape fires and to what extent have both ministries cooperated or competed in performing their roles? To answer this question and to unravel the complex relationship between the two ministries, we have used and developed the theoretical concept of interagency rivalry.
Based on a description and analysis of the ways in which the two ministries cope with landscape fires and interact with each other, we draw two conclusions: first, while both ministries work based on different interest and network in forestry and agriculture, both ministries show a relatively similar response to the forest fires by firstly organising top-down response from the ministry level and then by organising a participatory mechanism. Second, expectations about the participatory mechanism are too high and not realistic, given the limitations of popular mobilisation for doing collective action in contemporary Indonesian society.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventInternational Conference of Contemporary Social and Political Affair - Universitas Airlangga, Surabaya, Indonesia
Duration: 15 Nov 201616 Nov 2016


ConferenceInternational Conference of Contemporary Social and Political Affair
Abbreviated titleICOCSPA


  • interagency rivalry
  • landscape fires
  • forestry ministry
  • agriculture ministry
  • palm oil expansion

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Brother Against Brother: The Tale of Two Ministries in Managing Landscape Fire'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this