FOREST GUARDIAN
Forbes Indonesia|May 2021
Farwiza Farhan encourages more women to help protect the forest in Aceh.
Ardian Wibisono

While causing global economic turmoil, the COVID-19 pandemic is also destroying forests. Data from the Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) laboratory at the University of Maryland showed forest loss in Indonesia spiked 50% in the first twenty weeks of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. GLAD operates a global warning system for forest loss and analyzed by Greenpeace. Analysis of the same data by WWF Germany found that forest clearance in Indonesia was up 130% in March alone compared to the three-year average for March 2017 to 2019 with an estimated 130,000 hectares razed– the most tremendous recorded loss of any country that month. Thus, the pandemic brought additional challenges for forest conservationists like Farwiza Farhan (35), who saw the same trend in the area she's overseeing.

Wiza is the chairperson and co-founder of the Aceh-based environmental NGO Forest, Nature & Environment Aceh (HAkA). The organization advocates for policies and planning programs to protect the Leuser ecosystem that spans between Aceh and North Sumatra. With a total area of over 35 times the size of Singapore, this majestic and ancient ecosystem covers more than 2.6 million hectares of lowland rainforests, peat swamps, coastal forests, and alpine meadows. Globally recognized as one of the richest expanses of tropical rainforest found anywhere in Southeast Asia, the Leuser ecosystem is also one of the region's largest carbon sinks and home to endangered mega faunas such as rhino, tiger, elephant, and orangutan. One of the organization's efforts to protect the ecosystem is by involving community engagement, including women.

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