The community of Damaran Baru, in the north west of the Leuser Ecosystem, has been on a remarkable conservation journey since 2016, when a flash flood washed away several houses.

Tracking the waters upstream, a group of local women realised the flood had been aggravated by the clearance of forests that hitherto regulated seasonal water flow. They also realised that much of the logging was being carried out by community members, unaware of the implications for the village as a whole. With support from HAkA, a local NGO and LEAF grant partner, they gained the right to manage a 251-hectare area as a protected village forest. Now, the community is better able to control decisions about land use, and a forest restoration scheme is underway. The women have also set up Aceh’s first female-led community ranger team, Mpu Uteun, bringing a new dimension to what is traditionally seen as a job for men. Nestled among lush forests at the foot of a volcano, Damaran Baru is not so different to many other villages within and around the Leuser Ecosystem. Our hope is that its lesson of community conservation can be widely learnt and shared.