Seven Countries Working Together
Regionally, the Program has supported dialogue and action through its steering committee meetings that involve focal points from each country and through roundtables, such as one held during European Forest Week.
An ongoing benefit of the FLEG program has been the re-establishment of the forestry professional networks within the region which were lost during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The deep ownership of the FLEG program by both the FLEG national focal points (usually a high ranking government official such as a Deputy Minister from the Ministry responsible for Forestry) and the National Program Advisory Committees has helped keep FLEG issues high on the national agendas.
Activities in one country such as training of youth or developing log tracking systems can be of direct benefit to the other participating countries.
Working with the Forestry Communities
Engaging with the forestry communities is a major part of the program.
Communicating and consulting with timber trading companies, producers of timber goods, local communities dependent on forest resources, hunters, people who use forests for recreation, environmental NGOs, and civil society along with forestry managers and monitors has enabled the program to produce results.
Fewer logs are being cut illegally, more timber traders are complying with forestry regulation, people who previously relied on illegal logging for subsistence, have been persuaded and helped to engage in other activities such as bee keeping and honey production to make a living.
The education of all key stakeholders on the benefits of sustainable forestry in forest regions is increasing, from the participation of school children in forestry competitions, to the formation of Young Foresters Clubs which are very effective multipliers.
As the program evolves more and more cooperative activities are being implemented and knowledge and experience is being transferred.
Examples of FLEG II work throughout the region
FLEG II’s regional forest dependency study showed that many Eastern European communities still depend on what they collect from forests and nature to meet a significant portion of their household needs, and even to survive. The study surveyed over 1250 households from all seven countries and was one of the first of its kind in Eastern Europe and non-tropical forests. The results have helped policymakers make informed forest management decisions across the region, and FLEG ll’s continuing work creating community “fingerprints” using GIS and other data systems will enable the results to be even more widely and broadly applied.
The Parliament of Ukraine incorporated FLEG II recommendations for forest sector reform into the Coalition Agreement, a crucial document that will define the country’s path of development for the next few years. These recommendations had been widely discussed in Ukraine throughout past years and were highly appreciated by stakeholders. A wide array of FLEG II studies, such as the analysis of Ukraine’s anti-corruption legislation and practices, is helping the country improve forest management. To put forests on the national agenda, FLEG II held a competition for journalists for the best reporting on forest issues, which increased the quantity and quality of forest journalism in the country.
FLEG II supported the transfer of forest management within the Tusheti Protected Landscape from the central Government of Georgia to the people of this mountainous province. Having been under centralized and uncertain authority for almost 100 years, the valuable and beautiful forests of the Tusheti Protected Landscape had not received adequate attention. This is the first case of decentralized forest management in Georgia and the first time these forests have been under local control since the Soviet period began there in 1921. Lessons learned from this activity were disseminated to other countries covered by FLEG II.
As the result of cooperation with FLEG II, Agency Moldsilva, the main governmental institution responsible for forestry and hunting in Moldova, launched a National Forestry Consultancy Office to provide necessary expertise and assistance for improved forest management and sustainable development of natural resources. It will serve all those interested in forest management across Moldova regardless of public, community or private forest ownership. It will also contribute to the implementation of the national afforestation plan by creating around 13 thousand hectares of forest plantations on degraded lands by 2018 and rehabilitating thousands of forest shelterbelts.
Belarus developed its Strategic Forestry Development Plan for 2015-2030 with FLEG II support. The purpose of the Plan is to create highly productive and sustainable forests, along with the conservation and efficient use of their biological and landscape diversity. Belarus is also reviewing the use of non-timber forest resources for ecotourism development, drawing upon the experience of its neighbors. FLEG II’s first direct “people-to-people” bilateral cooperation efforts between Belarus and Russia is exploring the benefits of the “resource center” model of ecotourism and ways to engage local communities, businesses and public officials.
In Armenia, old-fashioned community engagement and modern satellite technology have put illegal forest activities on the map, quite literally. A new website has been exposing these once secret operations to the world since January 2015. The program, supported by FLEG II, has benefitted national level forest managers and local forest communities. Another FLEG effort brought Georgia and Armenia together to work on a Memorandum of Collaboration in order to find solutions for common forest problems such as illegal logging and fires and to start joint projects in the future.
In Azerbaijan, forestry-oriented education and climate change are top priorities. FLEG II supported active young foresters’ groups for children and developed tutorials and curricula for graduate technical schools, ministry training institutes, and schoolchildren to ensure that coming generations have a better and more widely disseminated understanding of the basic principles and advanced techniques for forest management. FLEG II Azerbaijan also prioritized development of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies and forest rehabilitation. Approaches will be tested in selected regions to examine the effectiveness of the proposed forest rehabilitation tools.
FLEG II set building up human resource capacity as a priority area in Russia. In particular, a textbook on “Law Enforcement and Governance in Forest Use, Protection and Renewal” developed by FLEG II was recommended by the Academic Resource Association of Forestry Education for students of master’s and bachelor’s degree programs, and already is at high demand by training institutions. FLEG II has also helped establish and replicate local models of sustainable forest management in Russia. One model of local reserve management has led to increases in household incomes of 15 per cent on average, and the ecotourism successes around the Polistovsky Nature Reserve are spreading to other forest communities, inspiring them to become more active in counteracting illegal logging.