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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

February 2021: Designing, implementing, and evaluating planetary health interventions by engaging local communities can significantly strengthen conservation efforts in global biodiversity hotspots. Such programmes include access to affordable healthcare systems and incentives to decrease logging activities.


Current strategies for conserving tropical forests and establishing protected areas often exclude or disenfranchise local communities, however, 35% of globally protected areas are traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous and local communities. Failure to integrate these communities into conservation strategies can often lead communities with few economic alternatives to take up illegal logging and converting land. New evidence suggests an implicit but strong connection between human health and conservation efforts in tropical forests in the developing world. In Indonesia, researchers have found that a lack of access to medical care encouraged families to turn to illegal logging as a primary source of income to cover expensive medical bills. By opening an affordable health clinic that, for example, accepted bartering as form of payment, the number of people who reported logging declined by nearly 70% between 2012 and 2017 with the number of households dependent on logging declining by 90%. More than half of the participants attributed the logging reductions to healthcare discounts awarded for community-wide reductions in logging.

Implications and opportunities

Recognising the interrelationships between human wellbeing and environmentally destructive activities can serve as a building block for preserving biodiverse carbon sinks, while reducing poverty and illness in local communities. The clinic in Indonesia engaged local communities at an early stage to identify strategies and mechanisms that would incentivise the community to engage. The clinic provides affordable health care access in addition to training programmes in sustainable agriculture and a chainsaw buyback programme. The reported reductions in logging equate to more than $65 million of avoided carbon emission when translated to the European carbon market. In addition, improved medical care led to a significant decline in a range of diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and diabetes. The holistic approach can have greater long-term effects by simultaneous preserving and restoring ecosystems that protect human health and providing access to healthcare care systems.


The above mentioned study draws from data specific to Indonesia and Gunung Palung. Further research is needed to test its impact in other geographic locations and within other communities.


Jones, I. J., ( (2020). Improving rural health care reduces illegal logging and conserves carbon in a tropical forest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 202009240. doi:10.1073/pnas.2009240117 

Rocheleau, J. (2020). How an Indonesian healthcare clinic is fighting climate change. Retrieved from