M. Iwan Kurniawan, Conservation of Native Herb and Spice Plants to Preserve Acehnese Traditional Culinary

Aceh, a special region in the already extraordinary archipelago of Indonesia, has substantial natural resources and the largest range of biodiversity in the Asian Pacific region. Situated in the northern end of the island Sumatera, which has one of the last primary rainforests on earth, the region has been facing a threat of destruction for decades.

As the forests of Aceh are destroyed, the people whose culture has developed alongside them are also suffering. In Aceh, many vital plants that have been used by the local community for hundreds of years for food and medicine are almost extinct. Community members now have to travel further out to find certain plants, and rich cultural traditions are at risk of vanishing along with the forest which sustains them

Recognizing the deep interconnection between these cultural and environmental catastrophes, biology major M. Iwan Kurniawan came up with an action plan that incorporates local knowledge preservation with the conservation of biodiversity within the forests. Working with some of his university classmates, he created the Conservation of Native Herb and Spice Plants to Preserve Acehnese Traditional Culinary project. Working alongside community members, he and his team catalog and preserve the native herb plants that are of such vital significance, melding the protection of the environment with the assurance that local knowledge and culture will endure.

Iwan is receiving a flow fund grant via Youth Environmental Grantmaking Team Member Hayu Dyah Patria to be able to lead an expedition with the local community to identify native herb plants. With this grant they can collect the seeds of the plants to cultivate them in a community garden using organic farming principals. They also plan to make a website to share their findings and ensure that these plants and their uses remain accessible to all for years to come.