Creating solutions

Make-or-break time for conservation action

The Leuser Ecosystem has many friends. Some have been defending the forests for decades, others more recently as forest protection has been recognised as a key climate strategy, and the scale of destruction associated with commodities like palm oil has been laid bare.

In Aceh and the neighbouring province of North Sumatra, a grass-roots conservation movement has grown since the 1990s, when a sharp increase in logging rates preceded a palm oil boom. Although a substantial area of the Leuser landscape has now been destroyed – including 150 square miles of forest within that part of the Leuser designated as a national park – the damage would be worse were it not for the intervention of local people, who have organised ranger teams and used the full extent of the law to stop forest and wildlife crime. Over the last few years, civil society groups have helped to achieve:

These successes are the result of many years’ hard work and support from donors around the world. However, the Leuser Ecosystem still has a relatively low profile among the international donor community. The security of stable, long-term funding is hard to come by, and civil society leaders spend time chasing grant income when they could be out there doing what they do best – taking action to protect forests. 

Orangutan - Leuser Ecosystem – photo copyright Paul Hilton for Earth Tree

LEAF sets out to change this dynamic. As a trusted intermediary between Leuser-focused groups and donors based in Europe, North America and Asia, we bring these worlds together and lower the barriers that commonly stop donors investing in new landscapes – including lack of time, knowledge or confidence about the work’s true impact. 

Now is a good time to make these connections. The Leuser is gaining prominence as a globally important carbon and biodiversity resource, at the same time that the fate of Sumatran and many other Asian forests hangs on a knife-edge. 

With the support of LEAF and other grantmakers, civil society groups have developed collaborative strategies to consolidate achievements to date and accelerate work along long-term strategic tracks, including the development of a conservation-based economy in Aceh. 

By driving investment to this framework – which faces a shortfall of roughly $5 million per year – LEAF plays its part in creating the solutions the Leuser Ecosystem so urgently needs.