The Leuser International Foundation (LIF) was founded on 23 July 1994 by the Notarial Deed No 75 of notary Chufran Hamal,SH. The foundation, most of whose senior members (trustees) are respected leaders from Aceh and North Sumatra, has a 30-year mandate through Presidential Decree (Kepres 33/1998) to implement the management of the Leuser Ecosystem.
The main objectives of the foundation are to implement the management of the Leuser Ecosystem and to maintain its contiguity and biodiversity to the fullest extent. This in turn will ensure that the environmental services that flow from the Leuser Ecosystem, such as a regular supply of water, will continue to be maintained for the benefit of the populations that live around it.
To achieve this lofty goal the LIF has had to use its influence in achieving several major objectives:
Securing the legal acknowledgement of the Leuser Ecosystem
It was realised early on in the life of the LIF that a much greater area than the designated Gunung Leuser National Park was needed to conserve an ecologically viable area. For this reason the LIF working closely with the staff (Leuser Management Unit, LMU) of the Leuser Development Programme and other stakeholders, ultimately won recognition for an area three times the size of the original national park concept. This area, the Leuser Ecosystem, is now fully backed by several legal instruments including two ministerial decrees, one presidential decree and a draft Government Regulation (just one level below an act of Parliament). These legal instruments actually give the Leuser Ecosystem a stronger legal basis than the designated National Park.
Supporting the process of zonation of the Leuser Ecosystem
The Leuser Ecosystem is to be zoned into a core conservation area surrounded by buffer zones, according to plans already drawn up by the Ministry of Forestry. Because of regional autonomy the work of developing the core conservation area is being done gradually through a bottom-up process with full involvement of government and non-government bodies at the local level. Nevertheless the first steps have been taken in devising an ecologically viable conservation area for the future. This was undertaken in partnership with the LMU and the Department of Forestry, and will be the basis for further discussions with the local governments.
Winning broad based support for the conservation of the Leuser Ecosystem
Obviously no amount of laws and regulations are going to save the Leuser Ecosystem without the support of local populations surrounding it. It has already been noted that some four million people live around and depend a greater or less degree on the Leuser Ecosystem. By contrast little more than ten thousand people live inside and most of these are recent immigrants. Winning the support of so many people has been an immensely complicated process and the job is still not completed. Major efforts have been made with the media (TV, press, and film companies) and this has certainly had an impact in generating awareness. Films crews from Anglia TV, CNN, TVNZ have produced full documentaries and shorter news item pieces on Leuser. Almost every day there are articles in local or national newspapers about the Leuser Ecosystem (some 700 were articles were published in 2002 alone). More sustainable results are expected from including studies about the Leuser Ecosystem at all levels in the local school curricula in Aceh. The LIF has supported the work of the LMU and local experts and institutions to produce textbooks on Leuser. Teachers are currently being trained in presenting these lessons. The LIF has also reached out to involve local leaders, local government, religious leaders (Ulamas Council), NGOs and traditional organisations (Masyarakat Adat) in creating greater awareness about Leuser. Although considerable success has been achieved in creating awareness about Leuser, it has to be remembered that this is not sufficient to stop those people intent on illegally exploiting the Leuser Ecosystem for personal gain. To tackle this problem a fair, just and consistent enforcement of the law is required. Although in exceptional circumstances violators of laws concerning conservation of Leuser have been brought to justice, the vast majority of perpetrators go free. The LIF will seek ways to support such work in the future.
Slowing down the rate of destruction and reversing the damage to the Leuser Ecosystem
Admittedly there is still illegal logging going on inside the Leuser Ecosystem, as well as some limited encroachment, but extraordinary gains have been made in preventing the worst abuses to the Leuser Ecosystem. Approximately 400,000 hectares of forest that were planned for elimination have been saved. Half of the logging concessions inside the Leuser Ecosystem have been stopped. Many inappropriate infrastructure plans, irrigation schemes, swamp drainage, roads etc have been stopped. And most recently a massive road network called Ladia Galaska that would have fragmented the Leuser Ecosystem has been, at least temporarily, stopped. For an overview of the reduction of conflicting interests inside the Leuser Ecosystem please refer to the accompanying map concerning Problematic Stakeholderships. It is worth noting here that one of the first interventions of the LIF after its formation was to lobby for the cessation of a road linking Aceh Tenggara with Langkat, that would have cut right through the Leuser Ecosystem. In reversing the damage to the Leuser Ecosystem the LIF has supported the work of rehabilitating an important wildlife corridor in the south west of the Leuser Ecosystem. This was a first of its kind in SE Asia.
Preventing the extinction of key species of flora and fauna
Even before the LDP began, members of the LIF were active in preventing the extinction of the Sumatran Rhino. This rare animal has a population of only about 60 individuals in the Leuser Ecosystem but this constitutes the biggest population in the world! Without the regular patrols carried out in the early years and continued under the LDP, the rhinos in Leuser would certainly have become extinct. The same may have happened to Leuser elephants and orangutans which constitute the largest intact populations of these subspecies anywhere. These animals need large areas of lowland rainforest to survive and the efforts made to increase the amount of lowland forest in the Leuser Ecosystem and to prevent it becoming just more plantations has no doubt done much to protect these species in the medium term. The lowland forests of Leuser are among the richest biologically in the world and saving some of them has undoubtedly saved many other populations of rare species of flora and fauna from reaching such low numbers that they can no longer survive.
The Conservation of natural biological resources and their ecosystem within the Leuser Ecosystem area, which functions to enhance the livelihood of the community, achieved.
1) Increase the protection of natural biological resources for the conservation of Leuser forests and a sustainable environment.
2) Increase the utilization of natural biological resources for the welfare of the community.
3) Support the strengthening of the institutional capacity of the local government.
4) Enhance community empowerment through active participation.
5) Enhance the institutional capacity of the LIF in a professional and accountable manner.