Forests cover about 40 percent of Georgia’s and 12 percent of Armenia’s territories. Inadequate harvesting and management practices, uncontrolled grazing, illegal logging, fires, spread of insects and diseases are key challenges faced by Georgia’s and Armenia’s forestry sector.
With FLEG II support, Georgia and Armenia have held two round table discussions hosted by each of these countries to share experience and agree on the modality of future cooperation.
The second phase of the event took place on 8-9 June, 2015, and was hosted by the National Forestry Agency of Georgia. Mr. Tornike Gvazava, Head of the National Forestry Agency of Georgia (NFA), highlighted the importance of support to the two countries in building partnership and developing synergy for improved forest management provided under the ENPI FLEG II Program.
“The first round of bilateral talks of Armenian and Georgian foresters held in Armenia in the fall of 2014 was the initial crucial step towards establishing long-lasting and sustainable collaboration between the forestry sectors of the two neighboring countries”, said Mr. Gvazava.
Armenia and Georgia went through similar economic hardship in the 90-s of the 20th century, experiencing drastic shortage in energy supply, as well as the period of poor governance and enforcement during the difficult transition to market-driven economy. Forests in both countries suffered from uncontrolled forest harvesting, which included extraction of fire wood for survival as well as illegal harvesting of timber. Sustainable supply of fire wood to rural communities, preventing forest damage from uncontrolled grazing, ensuring long-term sustainability of timber production, and restoration of degraded forest stands remain pressing problems for Armenia and Georgia. This is why FLEG Program supported foresters and forest managers of these two countries in working out common approaches to issues and exchanging success stories for their replication and scaling.
A familiarization site visit organized by the NFA of Georgia was a unique opportunity for the forestry practitioners of both countries to visualize forest protection and harvesting techniques on the spot and to talk about issues of concern, emerging questions, and gained experience.
The bilateral cooperation established in the framework of round table discussions held in the two countries was an important milestone towards producing a planned Memorandum of Collaboration.
The Memorandum is being drafted in hope that it will provide a convenient context for Georgia and Armenia to join their efforts aimed at better protection and management of forests.
“Parties stated that the Memorandum should not only provide a general context for formal cooperation, but serve as a practical tool for joint work of practitioners for forest sector. Towards this end, colleagues from the two countries agreed that the Memorandum will cover shared use of forest databases, development of unified systems of warning on forest fires and disease, and improvement of trans-boundary protection of forests”, explained Darejan Kapanadze, World Bank Senior Environmental Specialist.
“This would indeed benefit both sides,” added she, “because neither ecosystems in general, not forest pests or calamities like fire respect state borders. There are challenges that call for joint response and the FLEG Program may be a good vehicle for developing synergy between the countries covered by this Program.”