The second phase of FLEG’s Forest Dependency Study in Azerbaijan is underway to discover more about forest-dependent communities in the country
Far from the extremely modern profile of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, with its tall and cutting-edge architecture, there is a totally different landscape to explore. Beeches, oaks, and hornbeams dominate Azerbaijani forests, which cover almost 12% of the country’s territory.
In these sparsely populated areas, the economy of small villages heavily depends on forest resources. In order to learn more about the close relationship between the inhabitants of rural communities and the woodlands, the FLEG team conducted field research in selected locations.
This activity is part of a broader study on forest-dependent communities carried out in the ENPI-East countries and Russia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine), and which aims to define the real value of forest resources to rural populations in the region.
The first phase of the Forest Dependency Study was launched in 2014 and the findings were presented in the report Forest Dependency in Rural Azerbaijan. To investigate the population’s degree of dependency on forest resources, 150 households of Danachi, Yukhary Chardaglar, and Yukhary Tala, three villages situated in Zagatala district, were surveyed.
“Despite the relatively recent improvement of living conditions, the interviews revealed that most dwellers still need forest resources to support their income” said Azer Garayev, FLEG Program Coordinator for IUCN Azerbaijan, “In particular, they make use of timber, very often logged illegally, as firewood for heating and cooking”.
In Autumn 2015, the second phase of the study began. This time, the villages of Buzlug and Gurzalilar, in Goranboy district, and of Kawla, in Aghsu district, were selected. Layla Mekhtiyeva, FLEG Consultant, has been conducting several surveys since October, assisted by the District Forest Guarding and Rehabilitation Enterprise (FGRE). The main target groups of the questionnaires are farmers, women working in agriculture, the youth, and the elderly.
“These areas are characterized by a positive economic trend that has favored the repopulation of villages, which were abandoned by most of young inhabitants in the 1990s” said Mr. Garayev, “This resulted in an increase in the use of resources and, consequently, an excessive burden on forest ecosystems”.
The report, which will be released in June 2016, will examine the identified forest-dependent communities in more detail. In addition, the study will review a number of options for sustainably managing the surrounding resource base, to ensure both rural development and the protection of natural resources and biodiversity is maintained, as stated in the Saint Petersburg Declaration.
“As in the first phase, we expect to collect and analyze useful and practical information on these communities’ social, economic, and educational conditions, and all stakeholders await our analysis with deep interest” said Nariman Aghayev, head of the local NGO Center of Sustainable Development Research. Mr. Aghayev supports Ms. Mekhtiyeva during the field trips and states, “I believe that this work will allow us to develop a set of helpful guidelines for forest authorities and public institutions”.
“This is the first time that a project has been dedicated to the pivotal role of forests in local inhabitants’ daily lives” said Nazila Gakhramanova, head of the municipality “I am confident that this study will reveal some useful information that can be used to devise a sustainable strategy to manage our natural heritage”.
“I hope that this activity will not end with its second phase, but will develop into a full-scale study aimed to foster the interaction with local populations” said Shamil Huseynov, chair of NPAC and member of the national Parliament. “We will certainly take into careful consideration the data provided by the FLEG team in the formulation and implementation of effective measures to manage forest resources sustainably. Maintaining and implementing development based on the principles of sustainable natural resource management can and does contribute to the diversification of the economy and the creation of new job positions”.
The regional report Analysis of forest product and dependence amongst rural households in South Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and Russia is available both in English and in Russian.