As a teenager, Farwiza Farhan fell in love with the ocean during a snorkeling trip. It was a magical experience that led her to study marine biology. But as she grew up, she witnessed the destruction of the natural world that she loved, and she became determined to do everything in her power to change the status quo. Her fearless opposition to the destructive industries and corrupt government has allowed her to bring the battle for nature into the courtrooms. Farwiza aims to shift the balance of power to the local level, and support people to defend the incredible Leuser Ecosystem.
Vision and approach
The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place in the world where the tiger, orangutan, elephant, and rhino still roam together in the wild. Currently, the primary threats to the Leuser Ecosystem are large-scale infrastructure projects and exploitative policies that lead to deforestation. All of this is to meet the global demand for commodities like timber and palm oil. Farwiza and her colleagues founded HAkA in 2012, an NGO dedicated to strengthening the voice of local leaders and local organization in policy making, providing long-term health to the Aceh Province, socially, financially as well as environmentally. Also, Farwiza helped launch a number of legal cases against a plantation concessionaire inside the Leuser Ecosystem, which led to legal victory for conservation! One of the oil palm concessionaire was fined a precedent-setting USD 26 million. In addition to that, she also mobilizes local community to launch a legal challenge against the government, demanding changes in the provincial spatial plan policy.
“Through my training as a biologist I learned about the importance of maintaining the ecological integrity of the landscape to conserve species, habitats and ecosystem services. However, my experience taught me that these days conservation is more about people than about wildlife. Local communities stand on the frontline of conservation; they could play both roles – as the defender and guardians of forest and wildlife, as well as the perpetrator of environmental crimes. Oftentimes, the battles to conserve a landscape take place in the meeting room, or in court. That’s why conservationist can’t be an exclusive club, it should include everyone from all walks of life. We all need healthy ecosystem to thrive.” – Farwiza Farhan
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- The financial support of the Future For Nature Award helps protect the Leuser Ecosystem through citizen’s lawsuits.
- The financial support of the Future For Nature Award made it possible to set up a wildlife protection unit.
- The authority and credibility that comes with being a Future for Nature Award Winner helped amplify the voice of local communities Farwiza works with.
“Indonesia is at the top of the world list for illegal wildlife trade, logging the rainforest, and establishing monoculture oil palm plantations. All these threats are tackled in the work of Farwiza Farhan. Her efforts in the field and through the courts to protect the Leuser Ecosystem are extremely important for Sumatra and hopeful for the tigers, elephants, and rhinos.” – 2017, Masha Vorontsova, International Selection Committee