I am sitting cross-legged on the floor of a small wooden hut on the edge of the central forests of Aceh. The wife of “Pak Mukim”, traditional leader for the locality, has graciously served us tea, and we are discussing the difficulties of forest conservation with our host. A sudden downpour thundering onto the tin roof temporarily drowns out conversation, and the Mukim’s wife mops his brow. This is indeed humid forest.
Pak Mukim is pleased with the work on fruit tree nurseries and on improving the economy of this area, but concerned that the young men returning now the conflict is over are cutting forest in the zone set aside for protection, having obtained permission from the village administration for this illegal action. What to do? The authority floats between civic and traditional leaders and meanwhile more forest is chopped and burned. A slow drag on his clove cigarette and the fragrant smoke curls out into the downpour outside that washes more of Aceh’s soil into the river on route to the unforgiving sea.