With help from USAID, through LESTARI — which supports Indonesia to improve sustainable land use and conserve biodiversity — farmers in the area are turning away from citronella and toward coffee, a more forest-friendly crop that doesn’t rely on clearing land for cultivation or burning wood for processing. The program has also helped farmers develop a coffee nursery, share knowledge about environmentally friendly farming techniques and secure legal access to the land. Over 650 farmers, including Mr. Yusdi, are now making a better living by growing coffee instead of citronella.

An Interdependent Vision

Conserving Biodiversity While Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Land Use Change In Indonesia
By  James Halperin,  Reed Merrill

Indonesia is considered a “mega-diverse” country and is home to unique ecosystems and species, including orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, elephants, and birds of paradise. The country has a high rate of endemism and contains important terrestrial ecosystems, such as mangroves, lowland forests, peatland, swamp forests, and montane forests. In particular, Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatland and swamp forests and soils are critical for avoiding or reducing land-based carbon emissions.

Despite their global importance, these ecosystems are under extreme threat. Indonesia’s deforestation rate is among the highest in the world and reached a peak of about 2.4 million hectares per year in 2003. Despite the overall decline in deforestation rates at the national level, several key provinces in Indonesia with primary forests and peatland continued to show increases in forest loss. Among the most direct threats to Indonesia’s remaining forests is the conversion of forests to agriculture and plantation areas. These areas are expected to expand due to their substantial contribution to Indonesia’s economy and the growing market demands for agricultural commodities.

The USAID/Indonesia LESTARI activity combines sustainable landscapes and biodiversity conservation objectives through an interdependent vision of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving terrestrial biodiversity conservation by integrating sustainable land-use planning and forest conservation in Indonesia’s most carbon- and biodiversity-rich forests on Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Papua. This story highlights how USAID LESTARI integrated approaches such as political economy analysis and integrated landscape situation models, to align with local environmental priorities to amplify impact and ensure sustainability across landscapes.

LESTARI conducted a baseline analysis for each of six landscapes to guide priority site selection in areas with significant deforestation pressures. While the baseline information was useful for developing a high-level theory of change, the design team recognized their situation models needed to account for the vast differences in geographic, environmental, cultural, political, and economic factors in Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Papua. The team therefore conducted political economy analyses in each landscape to understand local environmental issues, threats, and entry points for biodiversity conservation and sustainable landscapes interventions.


During an internal mid-term assessment, the LESTARI team then designed integrated landscape situation models for each of the six landscapes. The landscape situation models allowed project staff to collaboratively plan and implement integrated interventions, rather than sector-specific interventions. The integrated landscape situation models built greater specificity into the more general theory of change and helped identify activities that would better deliver integrated results to advance both biodiversity conservation and sustainable landscapes outcomes.

A primary factor contributing to the success of LESTARI’s integrated approach is that the LESTARI team adapted and translated the different requirements of biodiversity and sustainable landscapes funding into landscape-based programs that align with local priorities and opportunities. In the Central Kalimantan landscape, for example, LESTARI has focused activities on addressing fires. While these recurring disasters are a major source of deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss, they also impact the health and economic livelihoods of local communities. Addressing forest and land fires has broad support from local and national government agencies and local communities, offering strong entry points for LESTARI to initiate engagements and build partnerships. In contrast, in the Aceh landscape, LESTARI focused on watershed management — a priority for local stakeholders — as LESTARI demonstrated that protecting upstream forests can provide a more stable freshwater supply for downstream communities and can reduce natural disasters such as landslides and flooding. By adapting approaches to landscape-specific situations, LESTARI ensures its activities meet local priorities as well as achieving reduced GHG emissions and improved forest conservation.


USAID’s LESTARI forest management project supports the Government of Indonesia and other partners on a range of initiatives, including orangutan rehabilitation, to conserve forest biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use across the provinces of Aceh, Central Kalimantan and Papua. USAID’s work in Central Kalimantan is helping to re-establish a new population of orangutans in areas where they have been locally extinct for over 100 years.

Lessons Learned

Develop and communicate a strategic vision for integrating objectives.

Identify issues of concern among host country government stakeholders and local stakeholders that align with an activity’s higher-level objectives; these issues can serve as entry points to build trust, buy-in, and long-term impact. Incorporate integrated visions into the theory of change; annual work plan development; collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) processes; and monitoring and evaluation plans and regularly reinforce this vision with all staff and partners. Use integration as an opportunity to build unity and cohesion among staff, achieve results, and generate buy-in and support from local partners.

Regularly revisit the theory of change to test assumptions and adjust approaches, as necessary.

Ensure that technical staff fully understand how other integrated components contribute to and amplify their own sector results. Regularly review and update the theory of change to identify any needed adaptations.

Analyze and understand the local context, challenges, and opportunities that are unique to the activity’s working area.

Conduct a political economy analysis and construct landscape situation models to develop team and partner understanding of local dynamics and guide activities for optimum effectiveness.

Learn More

Explore more case studies on the USAID Biodiversity Integration Case Competition website.

Learn more about biodiversity integration with other USAID technical sectors on the Biodiversity Conservation Gateway.

For more information on USAID/Indonesia’s work on biodiversity conservation and sustainable landscapes, please visit their website.


James Halperin, Senior Natural Resources Advisor, USAID/Indonesia

Jhalperin (at) usaid (dot) gov

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, Biodiversity, Carbon, Forestry, Sustainable Land Management, Sustainable Landscapes

 James Halperin

USAID/Indonesia Environment Office.

 Reed Merrill


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