Community-led conservation - SOS – Sumatran Orangutan Society
Man with spade restoring rainforest in Sumatra

Layton Thompson

Community-led conservation

Our CARE: Community Agroforestry, Restoration and Education model is a ‘greenprint’ for successful grassroots conservation.

This approach supports communities to protect, restore and safeguard orangutan habitat, whilst benefitting from critical ecosystem services and higher incomes.

Our field partners develop bespoke conservation action plans with communities living next to key orangutan habitat, then provide training and tools to equip them with the skills and knowledge to benefit from, rather than exploit the rainforest ecosystem.

Through training in agroforestry and organic farming techniques, farmers have increased crop yields and improved their profit, reducing their need to expand farmlands into the forest. This results in decreased pressure on the ecosystem, providing greater security for orangutans and the many other species that share their habitat.

Our holistic approach, with community livelihoods and engagement at its heart, is crucial for successful conservation efforts in the long term:

Community-led conservation

The entire planet benefits from the conservation of rainforests, yet conservation programmes planned without input from the local people struggle to achieve great impact. Our work is driven by local needs and our vision is to empower the people of Sumatra to become guardians of their forests.

Community-led conservation

Although often the cause of deforestation, agriculture can have a role to play in supporting conservation. Helping agricultural communities to increase productivity and profitability from existing croplands in regions where farming is the primary driver for deforestation enables them to improve both their own livelihoods, and the protection prospects of orangutans and forests.

Community-led conservation
Forest destruction is not only bad news for wildlife – it also has severe negative impacts on natural processes which rural communities rely on for their livelihoods and wellbeing. Engaging forest-adjacent communities in ecosystem restoration is a key strategy in converting them to forest guardians.

Community-led conservation
Environmental education provides communities with the motivation to participate in conservation. Our mobile environmental library and bicycle-powered conservation cinema help us reach people living near the last standing orangutan habitat.

Project Spotlight: Ketambe, Aceh

Through introducing the CARE approach to farmers in Ketambe, 160 hectares of forest were spared from being turned into farmlands.

A group of 80 farmers, each of whom was planning to expand their plantations into the forest, participated in training on agroforestry and organic cultivation. They stopped using pesticides, reducing costs, and the quality and weight of their cocoa bean output improved by 25%, increasing income. They have pledged to safeguard the forest, and continue to be advocates for ecological agriculture, spreading their knowledge and skills throughout the region. An additional 10 farmers have stopped working as illegal loggers and are now employed as cocoa bean traders and fruit vendors.

Community-led conservation

“Through raising local farming capacity, the CARE programme has allowed farmers to start intensifying production on their land rather than seeking out and clearing new plots, without there being any decline in income.”

- Bapak Kamisdin, farmer, Ketambe

Expanding our reach

An exciting new project is underway, with the backing of Lush, to establish an ecological agriculture demonstration site in Gayo Lues, Aceh.

This project will produce fruits, vegetables and essential oils under an organic permaculture model, which also includes a forest restoration zone to act as a buffer between farmland and natural forest. As well as being a learning hub for the region’s agricultural communities, the income from the sales of the crops will be invested in conservation programmes around the Leuser Ecosystem – a model that has great potential for the preservation of forests.

Read more on our permaculture training for farmers and home-makers



Farmers have increased their crop yields by 25%

Community-led conservation

More than 1000 farmers have been trained in ecological agriculture

An adult sumatran orangutan

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