Aceh is a province with an abundance of highly diverse natural resources, particularly in the forestry, marine, agriculture and mining sectors. Unfortunately, it has struggled to capitalize on these resources to improve living conditions for its population of four million. Three decades of armed conflict coupled with a devestating earthquake and tsunami have contributed to an increasing number of people living below poverty level in Aceh. Poverty increased to 32.6 % in 2005 from 28.4% in 2004. This number fortunately decreased to 26.5 % in 2006 thanks to rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. However, this fact does not by itself change the entire picture of the Aceh population. More than 30 % of the population, mostly in rural settings, are still living in abject poverty.
In December 2008 the Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, released an environmentally-friendly development strategy for the province, known as Aceh Green. This strategy aims to rebuild Aceh’s economy following the cessation of conflict and tsunami disaster recovery through innovative and sustainable management of Aceh’s natural resources, especially forests. A new Secretariat (Aceh Green Secretariat) with a mandate to promote Aceh Green is now operational in the Governor’s office, coordinating government policy with this strategy. In addition, to be able to properly manage its natural resources, Aceh has worked to increase investment and financing opportunities from private and public sectors alike in part through developing a policy known as Aceh Green Vision, which establishes five priority areas:
Green energy development
Environmental conservation through sustainable forest management
Food and livelihood security
Waste management and disaster mitigation
Non-renewable resources management
Since its establishment, the Aceh Green Secretariat has succeeded in coordinating and building a partnership with other relevant stakeholders who have demonstrated interest in Aceh‘s sustainable development such as donors, local organizations, government agencies, and the private sector at national and international levels.
In March 2009, the Government of Aceh established a REDD Task Force, consisting of representatives from all of the relevant government agencies, with a mandate to coordinate and promote REDD in the province. The Government of Aceh and the REDD Task Force are also developing an institutional framework for the long-term management of the Ulu Masen Ecosystem through REDD. Currently the government of Aceh has recruited 2,000 people for PAMHUT (Forest Guards) funded by Revenue Expenditure Budget Aceh to strengthen the role of rangers/PAMHUT in forest protection. To support the government's policy on Aceh Green Vision, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has trained 80 people to act as safety rangers in the area of Ulu Masen near forest-based communities.
The 738,000ha Ulu Masen Strategic Forest Area sits at the northern tip of the province. The forest is extremely diverse and provides important habitat for a range of globally threatened flagship species including Sumatran elephants and the Sumatran tiger. The Ulu Masen Strategic Forest Area also provides important environmental services for Aceh and its 300,000 forest-edge people, including clean water, flood prevention and soil erosion control. Until recently, civil conflict effectively inhibited commercial logging and reduced rates of land conversion from forest land to non-forest uses. The post-tsunami reconstruction effort and the end of hostility in the province are rapidly changing this situation, bringing increasing threats and pressures on the forest and its resources.
REDD offers Aceh new opportunities to better manage and protect its forest resources and ensure community livelihood improvements at a formative time in the province’s development trajectory.
Ulu Masen REDD activities under the direction of the REDD Task Force are conceptualized under two themes: (1) Forest Carbon Accounting; and (2) Community Engagement. FFI is providing technical and advisory support to the Government of Aceh REDD Task Force to support development and implementation of REDD best practices under these two themes.
A series of information-sharing and consultation meetings has been initiated by the REDD Task Force in all five Ulu Masen districts. The REDD Task Force has met with all Ulu Masen forest-edge Mukim leaders as a first step in a process of ongoing engagement.
Preliminary results from community meetings indicate broad support from Mukim leaders for the progression of REDD in the Ulu Masen Ecosystem. To date, key matters of concern identified by Mukim leaders include recognition of customary forest boundaries and clarity over community access to forest resources. The REDD Task Force will continue to work with community members on these issues.
The Ulu Masen Ecosystem was the first project for REDD to be validated under the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards. The Government of Aceh is in the process of developing a Project Design Document for Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) verification and validation, which is expected to be completed sometime in2011.
In addition to the Ulu Masen project, Aceh is in the process of calculating baseline carbon stocks for the Leuser Ecosystem in the northern part of Sumatra.
Related Aceh Efforts
Aceh has established a conservation response unit (CRU), in the Leuser and Ulu Masen Ecosystems, which is designed to help manage and minimize wildlife conflicts with people who live around the forest.
Aceh is beginning the legislative process in parliament (DPRA)to add a Aceh Spatial Process , expected to be completed in 2011.
In 2011, the Government of Aceh completed the evaluation of concessions in the province (forestry, plantation and mining). The results of these evaluations will be included in a Medium Term Low Emissions Development Planfor Aceh Green Vision.