In a land with communities as diverse as its politics and landscapes, survey attempts to quantify human dependency on forests
“That really made us more careful before entering the yard,” explains Tetyana Zhyla, one of the consultants [Ukraine] hired to conduct the first survey in Eastern Europe to quantify how and how much the people there depend on forests as part of their livelihoods.
Dogs are common means of security in rural areas of Eastern Europe, explained Zhyla . And in the rural Carpathian mountain villages of Ukraine, dogs are kept on long chains, plenty long enough to reach the gate of the fence.
Over the last four months, consultants have braved watchdogs and other daunting challenges to complete surveys of over 1250 households in forest communities in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. The goal of the study is not only to quantify how people rely on forests, but also to help determine whether that reliance is sustainable into the future and why.
“People in Eastern Europe have been living in and around forests for countless generations and have their own unique relationship with the forest,” said Richard Aishton, FLEG II Program Coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “We hope this study will be valuable not only to the local and national officials as they set and enforce forest policy that directly impacts these people, but also to larger efforts to better understand the human dependency on nature, no matter where we live.”
FLEG piloted the studies of forest functionality and of community dependence in some rural communities of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and to some extent in Russia during the first phase of the project in 2012 with some added funding from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). After earning government and other support there, to the program further refined the methodology into a unified set of questions suitable for all seven FLEG II countries and secured the additional support necessary to expand the project throughout the region.
“We worked hard to prepare and implement this work, and the sample has already given us very useful results,” said Riyong Kim Bakkegaard, IUCN Consultant coordinating work on the survey.
By compiling the data from the seven countries, FLEG II hopes to answer many questions, among them:
Under direction from Bakkegaard and FLEG II country program coordinators, consultants in the seven countries carried out the surveys between May and August of 2014. With the ground work complete, Bakkegaard and other consultants are compiling and analysing the results of the survey now and expect to release them at the FLEG II Forest Dependency Workshop October 28-30, 2014. The final report will be available for peer review in the following months.