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Human Impacts, Human Rights

The Leuser Ecosystem stretches across the province of Aceh and North Sumatra on the island of Sumatra. These provinces are home to a diverse range of rural communities, many of whom have lived in the region for generations and depend on the uniquely biodiverse forest ecosystem for their food and livelihoods.


The majority of Aceh’s people—between 70 and 75 percent—live on the coastal plains of Sumatra, where many communities have established wet rice cultivation.

The livelihoods and food supply for millions of people rely heavily on the natural services, particularly the water supplies, that the Leuser Ecosystem provides. These critical environmental services are highly sensitive to human disturbance of the forests upstream. Detailed economic studies show that, when protected, these forests continually provide hundreds of millions of dollars in net benefits every year compared to the limited, one-time profits of deforestation. The continued destruction of forests gravely threatens the long-term welfare of the Acehnese people. Aceh underwent a bitter 30-year conflict between the Indonesian military and a local separatist movement, ending when the Asian Tsunami hit in 2004 and peace negotiations began.

A balance must now be found between rebuilding the economy and equitable development while protecting human rights and the ecosystem services that local communities rely on for their livelihoods.

Learn how you can support Acehnese activists on the ground.