Conservation Cooperatives: Catalyzing A Rights-based Approach

Creating scalable solutions to reduce deforestation through securing rights, increasing value, and supporting local governance.

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Adam Miller

Initiative's representative date of birth

November 10, 1990

Initiative's representative gender

  • Choose not to respond

Headquarters location: country

  • Indonesia

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Kalimantan, Indonesia

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan going forward)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €500k - €1m

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

We began by listening. Before we decided to found Planet Indonesia we went to some of the most rural communities who were living in tandem with rich biodiversity. We asked why they were involved in logging, selling land to oil palm / mining, poaching of wildlife, mangrove clearing, and more. Then we listened. We found that across multiple ecosystem types the grassroots reasons were the same. Lack of access to basic services, no governance structures, lack of land rights / tenure, all lead communities to exploit and sell off forests and their resources. Our founding team took these stories and responded. To this day we engage in a participatory process in all our program design, implementation, and evaluation. When we listen, we can thrive.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The world’s most important biodiversity hotspots are in the most rural corners of the planet. The communities that live in tandem with these systems have little to no access to basic services. Socio-economic insecurities from lack of start-up capital, agricultural inputs, unmet healthcare needs, to lack of financial services cause communities to exploit biodiversity. This is furthered by lack of rights over land, incentives to conserve, and governance structures to support management.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We conserve at-risk ecosystems through village-led partnerships. We create Conservation Cooperatives (CCs) - community-led organizations that engage in the management of forests. Through these CCs we administer business, education, and public health services to address the drivers, not the symptoms of forest loss. These CCs are the platforms where we administer services to communities to spike short-term interest, reduce opportunity costs of conservation, and address the root causes of local biodiversity loss. As membership increases three things happen: (i) more individuals gain access to much needed services designed to tackle poverty, (ii) more villagers are engaged a governance body (Cooperative) for inclusive decision making (iii) the cooperative grows and moves towards self-sustained finance Our model creates the enabling conditions for communities to engage in forest conservation. We have three key pillars to our approach: RIGHTS - ensuring communities have rights and tenure to manage forests. VALUE - ensuring financial and non-financial incentives for forest stewardship. GOVERNANCE - supporting democratic village-led governance over forest management.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Community-based conservation (CBC) has long been identified as an impactful solution to biodiversity loss, climate change, and the reduction of rural poverty. However, CBC remains highly contested, evidence is vague and inconsistent, and early attempts such as Integrated Conservation and Development Programs (ICDPs) are noted to have largely failed. Our simple but innovative approach overcomes where CBC has failed by ensuring RIGHTS, VALUES, and GOVERNANCE is at the forefront of each initiative. Through participatory design and evaluation our model transitions to a community-led system where outcomes are owned by program beneficiaries. Our inclusive approach overcomes the forest management conundrum of how to engage local solutions.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

The Planet Indonesia model begins with a commitment to the community, to ensure they are actively involved in the decision-making and strategic planning of all projects. Collaboration is not only a value, but it is what leads us to success. Our participatory process allows us to quickly and adaptively manage programs and respond to the variation between and among village partnerships. We also have signed multi-year partnerships with The Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fisheries, Department of Health among several other agencies. Our approach provides the platforms needed for collaboration between government agencies and rural communities, an area of much conflict in Indonesia. We facilitate processes to aid in co-management of protected areas, improved access and tenure for communities, while engaging governments in fair and inclusive governance. Planet Indonesia has been able to grow because we keep collaboration at the heart of what we do.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

As of January 2020, 3,339 households have enrolled in Conservation Cooperatives managing 679,000 ha of forests. We have seen a 56% reduction in primary rainforest loss and a 77% reduction in tree cover loss in our project sites. In 2019 alone a total of 3,168 women received access to contraceptives through our voluntary family planning and reproductive rights program and a total of 85,000 seedlings were planted on degraded lands. On average crop yields improved by 15-45% for farmers enrolled in our climate smart agriculture program. Cooperatives now manage over USD$100,000 in funds to support local regenerative economies while also boasting a 99.8% repayment rate on loans taken by community members from Coop funds. Our model reduces forest loss, creates resilient livelihoods, and gives community's control of their own land management.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We have identified three main pathways to scale ranging from more direct to indirect approaches. 1.) Expansion in Indonesia Ourselves - We have created a 10 year strategic plan to grow within Indonesia. This growth will be supported by big aid, foundations, who are long-term supporters in our evidence-based approach. 2.) Scaling Globally Through Partners - Our five year strategic plan focuses on creating and testing knowledge products (KP) and frameworks that will allow other organizations to replicate pieces of our approach. Our goal by 2026 is to be working through partners in 3 other countries. 3.) Training the Trainers - After the creation of KPs/toolkit we plan to launch a training program to train the trainers in the CC approach

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

We seek to create shared value with global society through: climate change awareness, human-rights support, and the value of biodiversity. We work through our platforms to build a positive message related to these areas, creating a shared value that integrating rights-based approaches to support community-led conservation is a climate change solution. By building a message and grassroots movement around this approach, we seek to create shared value similar to Nestlé's focus on key areas (e.g. nutrition, rural development, water). Nationally and locally our model is contingent upon our ability to create shared value with program participants, involving beneficiaries in every step of our model

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Short term: we focus on foundations and individual donors. While there is a movement towards 'social enterprises' and other forms of finance, it should not be overlooked that many foundations provide unrestricted long-term funding. We have been successful in securing these which allows for us to invest in producing impact not in reporting and grant administration Medium: we will focus growing our international team to leverage and unlock unrestricted funds from individual donors. Long-term: we have begun certifying our programs (Plan Vivo) to access carbon and deforestation offset markets such as the ones presented by Lestari Capital. These provide 25-35 years of funding per hectare of forest conserved.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We currently have 44 full-time staff and 40 part-time staff in Indonesia and our US team is currently made of up 4 individuals who spend 60-80% of their time in-country. Our US organization is supported by a board of directors consisting of 6 individuals and our Indonesian org is governed by aboard of 5. Our team has won awards with Future For Nature, UNDP Equator Prize, Ford Foundation, Asia Foundation, among others. We bring decades of experience, leveraging our innovative rights-based model.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges

12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.

Our approach has direct benefits for biodiversity that can be proven by four areas of impact. Forest Cover: using global forest watch and remote sensing we have seen a 56% reduction in primary rainforest loss and 77% reduction of tree cover loss in our terrestrial site. In our coastal mangrove project only 1.25 ha of forest was loss in the past three years, well below the average forest loss in Indonesia. Wildlife: Using SMART patrol data we have seen an annual 25% reduction in encounter rates (detection/km) of snares/camps/poachers in our project sites. In our terrestrial site we have successfully protected 4 of the world's most endangered bird species nests, the Helmeted Hornbill. In Gunung Naning, our program protects nearly 10,000 orangutans. Fisheries: using fishermen's harvest rates as an indicator of fish biomass we have seen a 30-47% improvement in harvest rates due to mangrove protection and fisheries management. Our model directly benefits forests and biodiversity.

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

We will use the village of Sungai Nibung as an example. Specific community needs were sourced through community hearings in May-July 2016. Community members identified illegal logging, limited livelihood options, collapse in fish stocks, no access to health / education services, and corrupt supply chains as major issues. Our model was adapted to meet these needs and challenges. A CC was established in August 2016 and a 5 year MoU was signed with the village. As membership increased three things happened: (i) more villagers gained access to much needed services (livelihood, education, and health) that are designed to decrease exploitation, (ii) more villagers are engaged a governance body (Cooperative) that is designed to support good governance, and (iii) the cooperative grows, meaning an established self-sustaining community-led entity. Since 2016 we have seen improved human well-being , only 1.25 ha of forest loss, 30% increase in household income, and improvements in fish biomass.

14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?

While there are a variety of community-based approaches on the market today we believe our CC model differs from others in the following ways. First, is our commitment to governance and community ownership from day one. Many community-based forestry approaches have a "final outcome" of a community-led association (e.g. village forest unit) to manage the project post-funding. This is considered the final outcome. We believe inclusive governance is essential, and from day 1 integrate governance into Coops. Second, through partnerships and innovation we go beyond livelihood only approaches and integrate health, rights, and education into a holistic model to improve human well-being. Third, we invest heavily in evidence-generating activities to continually iterate and improve our model while simultaneously providing results towards our intended biodiversity, forestry, and well-being goals. Finally, the CC model is truly flexible and replicable to meet the needs of local communities.

15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

2020 Global Expo 10 Best Practices in Sustainable Development Dubai 2019 Edinburgh Ocean Leaders Fellowship 2018 Future for Nature Award 2017 UNDP Equator Prize Winner 2017 Rolex Award Semi-finalists 2016 Echoing Green Semifinalist 2016 Unilever Sustainable Living Awards Semifinalists Ashoka 2016 Ashoka ChangeMakersXChange Fellow

16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Individual Donations: 5% Foundations and General Support: 60% Grants: 20% Other: 15% (generated carbon income)

17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?

Planet Indonesia is quickly becoming a globally recognized brand and name in community-led approaches. We have recently put together a 5 and 10 year strategy. Our 5 year strategy is focused on growth in Indonesia via 4 main areas: (i) self growth / replication, (ii) technical partnerships, (iii) building learning networks, and (iv) opening a US-based office. While i & iv focus on strengthening our internal infrastructure (ii) and (iii) focus on creating a global network to support organizations in innovative community-led approaches like our CC model. Our 5-10 plan focuses on scaling globally through technical partnership support and learning networks. Our dream is to identify local organizations and support them in best practices to reduce deforestation through our CC model that ensures rights, improves value, and supports good governance. We want to identify partners and catalyze them to grow their impact. Funds and prize money will be used to leverage this 5 and 10 year plan.


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