Benjamin John Wiesner and Paul Dargusch
Abstract: The tropical peatlands of Indonesia are widely recognized as a globally significant carbon stock and an important provider of crucial ecosystem services. However, in recent years they have been increasingly degraded. The Indonesian government has attempted to involve communities in peatland restoration efforts. These attempts were made in recognition of (1) the important role livelihood activities play in land degradation processes and (2) the ‘gatekeeping’ and stewardship role local communities play in ensuring the durability and longer-term effectiveness of restoration activities. Engaging communities has proven challenging for many reasons, but particularly because of the historical distrust local communities have towards land management interventions. In this article, we borrow the concept of a social license to operate (SLO) from the business management literature to understand why and how community involvement impacts peatland restoration in Indonesia. We introduce the concept and conceptual models of a social license to restore (SLR). As a result of engaging with our perspective, readers will be able to identify how issues of government distrust, low levels of community participation, and poverty—and the counterfactual—may impact the longer-term success of restoration initiatives and how a social license to restore may expedite progress in restoration. Secondly, discussing and linking the multi-faceted issues of peatland restoration will highlight its relevance within the land, biodiversity and human well-being nexus.
Keywords: community; involvement; peatland; restoration; social license to operate