Farwiza Farhan is fighting to protect the last wilderness areas of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, Indonesia. This region is unique since it is the last place on Earth where iconic species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinoceros still coexist in the wild. To protect the unique biodiversity in the region, Farwiza Farhan founded the NGO HAkA. And through HAkA, she became the voice of local leaders and organisations in the fight against the exploitation and human expansion threatening the Leuser Ecosystem. Among their achievements is the remarkable legal victory against attempts to turn areas of this ecosystem into oil palm plantations. This way, Farwiza empowers local communities to defend their ecosystem against external economic interests.
Growing up, Farwiza was in love with the natural environment. Her passion for the ocean turned into a desire to work in the Nature Conservation sector as she got older. She first studied Marine Biology and later earned a MSc in Environmental Management. By the end of her studies, in 2011, she started working for a government agency that managed the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra. Her fearless determination to protect this area against unregulated exploitation led her to start the NGO HAkA in 2012 and bring the battle for nature into the courtrooms. In 2014 Farwiza started a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies.
Vision and Approach
Farwiza believes in the power of local communities as defenders of their ecosystems. The Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia is a unique place on Earth. Besides being biodiversity rich, it is the last known place where tigers, orangutans, rhinoceros, and elephants are still found in the wild. However this area is under immense pressure from human expansion and exploitation. Currently, the primary threats to this biodiversity hotspot are large-scale infrastructure projects, and exploitative policies that lead to deforestation. All of this to meet the global demand for commodities like timber and palm oil. To protect the Leuser Ecosystem Farwiza founded HAkA, an NGO dedicated to strengthening the voice of local leaders and local organisations. HAkA focusses in policy making, providing long-term health to the Aceh Province in three fronts: social, financial and environmental. This approach has brought Farwiza a few major successes. One of the greatest achievements for the Leuser Ecosystem and its people was the legal victory against a concessionaire for Palm oil plantation. Farwiza and her team at HAkA unprecedentedly secured 26 million USD in damage to repair the forest. HAkA was also involved in the repeal of a hydropower dam that would run right through the habitat of the endangered Sumatran elephant. By becoming the legal voice against the extirpation of natural value from this unique ecosystem, Farwiza hopes to shift the balance of power to the local level, the people of Aceh.
“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 empowers Farwiza to lead citizen’s lawsuits against exploitative actions.
- With the financial support of the Future For Nature Award Farwiza set up a wildlife protection unit.
- Winning the Future For Nature Award amplified the voices of the 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."Ms. Masha Vorontsova, International Selection Committee