Winner of the Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats donated by the Arcus Foundation
LAW OF THE LAND
Environmental activist and Founder of Yayasan HAkA, Farwiza Farhan is fighting to save Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem and its biodiversity. Despite legal protection, threats to this unique rainforest are large-scale and imminent. In 2013, the provincial Aceh government proposed a Spatial Plan which failed to recognise the Leuser Ecosystem as a strategic area for conservation. If approved, this would effectively legalise oil palm plantations, logging, mining and road development inside the protected area. While the plan is still being evaluated by central government, such activities continue to occur illegally, causing destruction of forest and triggering a surge in poaching and human-wildlife conflict.
SHIFTING THE POWER
By bringing citizen lawsuits against proposed construction plans, issuing of illegal logging permits and the proposed Aceh Spatial Plan, Farwiza is tackling the issues head on. Her NGO is opposing illegal oil palm plantations and restoring deforested areas, tackling poaching and empowering local communities to participate in government land-use planning decisions.
The Leuser Ecosystem is recognised as one of the world’s most irreplaceable protected areas and at over 35 times the size of Singapore, this ancient ecosystem covers more than 26,000km². It is the last place on earth where the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan, tiger, elephant and rhino coexist in the wild. It also provides ecosystem services that are vital for the survival of four million Acehnese people living in the surrounding areas.
Farwiza’s project aims to:
- Pursue a citizen lawsuit to prevent the Spatial Plan from legalising the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.
- Ensure community concerns are included in land-use and conservation policies at government level.
- Establish a Community Patrol Team to prevent poaching, logging, illegal land desecration and inform community-led action plans.
Why it matters:
- Poor forest governance, weak law enforcement and destructive new policies are currently failing the Leuser Ecosystem.
- Poaching is increasing at unprecedented rates; evidence of tiger presence has dropped by almost 75% in the last five years.
- Oil palm plantations are being established across elephant migration paths, causing a rise in trapping and poisoning of elephants by plantation owners.
“We seek to empower local communities and enable them to take direct action in order to protect their forest.”