Restoring Paradise: Revitalising Indonesia’s ecosystems and Indigenous community

Evi Indraswati’s story doesn’t unfold amidst the sterile silence of a laboratory, but within the harsh realities of communities in Indonesia’s Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (TNBBS), grappling with environmental degradation and unsustainable fishing practices.

Witnessing their unwavering spirit and deep-rooted knowledge ignited a passion within Evi: to bridge the gap between these communities and established institutions.

This innate drive, born from witnessing real-world challenges, forms the cornerstone of Evi’s remarkable career as a community conservationist, utilising indigenous knowledge and empowering women in conservation efforts. 

A tapestry of rainforest and threats 

Encompassing 356,800 hectares and stretching along Sumatra’s Bukit Barisan Mountain Range, TNBBS is a UNESCO World Heritage Site teeming with biodiversity. Yet, much of Sumatra’s forests have been cleared for agriculture and industry, leaving TNBBS as one of the last remaining primary forests.

Tragically, over 20% of the park itself has already been deforested, and encroachment continues to threaten its remaining ecological treasures. 

From academia to action 

Evi’s journey began with a biology degree from Gajah Mada University, Indonesia, and her passion grew with real-world experience. Immersing herself in environmental organisations and even editing the Indonesian Nature Conservation Newsletter, she honed her skills as a facilitator, writer, and passionate advocate. 

A diverse group of people seated, with one person in the front, making a presentation and sharing expertise. The image depicts collaboration with the community in a conservation program.

Fostering collaboration between the community for technical aspects in the program.

A turning point came in 2016. As an alumna of an environmental leadership programme, Evi took an online course on forest restoration. This newfound knowledge empowered her team to tackle the challenge of restoring TNBBS’s forest. Inspired, they documented their experiences in a book, showcasing the transformative impact of knowledge and collaboration. 

Empowering communities, one seedling at a time 

Evi’s work wasn’t just about self-improvement; it was about empowering others. Since 2012, she and PILI Green Network, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable development and environmental conservation, have been pioneering community-based forest restoration activities in TNBBS.

They focus on engaging with the people of Pesanguan village, which lies within the park’s buffer zone. Their goal is to reduce encroachment and restore hundreds of hectares of cleared forest. 

A group of researchers and community members gathered in discussion. Papers and notes are visible, suggesting analysis of data. The image represents collaborative understanding and tailoring research outcomes to communityneeds.

Researchers and community members discuss study findings, tailoring solutions to address local needs.

Through participatory methods and training, they helped the community create sustainable income streams, like raising and selling seedlings for reforestation efforts. This not only provided economic benefits but also fostered a sense of ownership and responsibility for the forest’s future. 

A diverse group of people working together, planting the mangrove seeds.The image suggests community participation and collaboration, highlighting the collective effort behind a successful program.

Dedicated hands, shared responsibility: Community members collaborate to plant seeds, ensuring program success through collective effort.

Collaboration: The cornerstone of success 

Evi’s journey wasn’t smooth sailing. Indigenous communities faced harsh realities of inequality, marginalization, and environmental threats. But Evi knew collaboration was key.

She built partnerships with the Pesanguan Forest Conservation Group (KPHP), starting with just 20 members and growing to 80 active members today. She also involved elementary and high school students in raising seedlings, fostering environmental awareness from a young age. 

A group of people gathered, engaged in discussion, representing different roles in restoration efforts. The image symbolizes knowledge exchange and collaboration forsuccessful project outcomes.

Building bridges of understanding: Sharing practical restoration knowledge and fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders.

A vision for a sustainable future 

Evi’s vision is ambitious and hopeful: a future where Indigenous communities are seen as stewards of the land and ocean, their knowledge respected, and their practices integrated into mainstream conservation approaches. This vision serves as a reminder that even in the face of difficulty, positive change is always possible. 

A diverse group of people seated in a front, some hold microphones, suggesting presentations or sharing expertise. The image depicts collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and expert involvement in a program.

Fostering collaboration between diverse stakeholders and bringing in expert resources to drive a successful program.

Beyond Evi’s story: A roadmap for change 

Evi Indraswati‘s story is more than just an individual’s journey; it’s a roadmap for anyone seeking a meaningful career in environmental impact. It’s about finding your passion, building a diverse skillset, empowering others, and charting a course through challenges – all while keeping a vision for a better future as your guiding star.

Remember, the tides of change can be rough, but with purpose, resilience, and adaptability, you too can navigate a fulfilling career that leaves a lasting positive impact on the world. 

People of various genders and ethnicities share a boat ride, looking ahead. This image represents collaboration,teamwork, and navigating diverse perspectives in conservation and career paths.

Charting a course together: A diverse group, including the interviewee, navigates a boat, symbolizing collaboration in navigating careers and conservation efforts with people from all backgrounds.

Follow Evi Indraswati’s work and connect with her via Instagram or email: You can also learn more about PILI Green Network and their impactful projects.

Curious about a career in community conservation? Explore our interviews, webinars and more on community-based conservation.

Evi’s story is just one example. The world of conservation is brimming with diverse paths, each offering unique challenges and rewards. So, how do you find your own path? Here are some resources to help you chart your course: 

Key Conservation Role Profiles: Discover different career paths within conservation and find the perfect fit for your skills and interests.

Ultimate Guides: Get expert advice and insights on navigating the exciting world of conservation careers.

Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Connect with other passionate individuals and organizations through online communities, mentorship programs, and volunteer opportunities. Together, we can create a wave of positive change for our planet. 

Let Evi’s story be your inspiration, but make your own path. The world needs your unique voice and talents in the fight for a sustainable future.


Author Profile | Cynthia Dewi

By day, Cynthia is an Assistant Researcher at Universitas Indonesia, unlocking the secrets of urban mosses & their climate connection. But her passion blooms beyond the lab! As a freelance botanical illustrator, she brings vibrant stories of nature to life, igniting environmental awareness in young minds through children’s books. 

Previously, she combined my scientific expertise with conservation efforts as a botanical ecologist, identifying High Conservation Values and designing restoration plans to protect nature’s treasures. Whether through research, art, or collaboration, Cynthia is dedicated to finding sustainable solutions for our planet. Let’s connect on LinkedIn or Medium and explore its wonders together!


Interviews, Celebrating Diversity in Conservation