Meet the women restoring the Leuser Ecosystem

This year, for International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, we’re celebrating the women who are restoring the beautiful Leuser Ecosystem and bringing the forest back to life. They’re shining examples of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day,  Embrace Equity.

The women’s forest restoration project addresses two intertwined challenges: gender inequality and environmental issues such as climate change, poor water and soil quality, and the destruction of tiger habitat. 

The forests of the Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra are globally important. They’re the last place on earth where Critically Endangered Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans co-exist together. The sad truth is, these forests are under constant threat. They’re experiencing ‘death by a thousand cuts’ as a result of small-scale encroachment, fires lit to pave the way for agriculture, and large-scale logging for monocultures such as rubber and oil palm plantations. 

Unless we can replant the forests and stop illegal logging, Sumatran tigers will become restricted to small, isolated areas of forest. This would be devastating for the long-term survival of the species. However, this inspiring women’s forest restoration project is taking on the challenge, planting indigenous tree seedlings in degraded areas of the Leuser Ecosystem to provide habitat and food for the many species who call these forests home. 

Some of these reforested areas were once illegal oil palm plantations. Once the palms are removed, the land needs to be reforested. The local women who live near the Leuser who are now employed by this project play a crucial role in the overall health and biodiversity of the forest. Not only are they earning income for their families, but they are also learning about the value of the forest and its species, becoming stronger advocates for conservation in their communities.

A critical success factor of this project is that they are planting trees and bushes that not only provide shade, but also encourage seed distributors such as orangutans, birds and sun bears to visit the restored area. These wildlife then introduce new plant species that add different layers of vegetation to the forest, supporting further forest growth.

Women’s participation in forest restoration significantly improves the health of our forests and enhances conservation both locally and globally. Through this project, these women are transforming attitudes about the role of women. They are also powerful role models for the next generation, promoting the importance of conservation and gender equity together. They show young girls what women can achieve, which is one of the most powerful solutions to addressing climate change and environmental issues.

Your donation today will empower the women’s restoration group to continue to replant the Leuser forest and further transition towards sustainable livelihoods. You’ll also support them to make ecological planting bags from banana trunks and leaves, rather than relying on plastic poly bags that contribute more waste to the environment. 

Women’s empowerment is central to conservation and protecting elephants and their forests. When you support this grassroots women’s restoration project, you help build their capacity, grow their impact, and save the forests Sumatran elephants rely on for survival.

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