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16/12/2016

From Saint Petersburg to Bonn: How Georgian Forest Landscapes can be Restored

Field assessment in Mikeltsminda village, Akhaltsikhe municipality. Photo by G. Bagaturia.
Field trip to village Mikeltsminda, Akhaltsikhe municipality. Photo by G. Bagaturia.
Field trip to village Mikeltsminda, Akhaltsikhe municipality. Photo by G. Bagaturia.

A newly released report assessed the forest landscape restoration perspectives in Georgia

In 2005, 44 governments decided to commit to jointly fighting against illegal logging and associated forest crimes by signing the Saint Petersburg Declaration (SPD). This document also contained the commitment to recognize the rights of forest-dependent communities and the intent to “encourage and promote the participation of indigenous people and the local population in the management of forests”.

In the framework of the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Program (FLEG II), a series of research activities was undertaken with the aim to investigate the dynamics between forests and rural communities. Specifically, the seven countries that participate in the ENPI FLEG Program implemented the Forest Dependency Studies (FDS), which aimed to assess the level of dependency of local populations on forest resources.

“Thanks to the FDS, we were able to obtain valuable and quantifiable information on forest resources. In Georgia, we discovered that a significant number of households heavily depend on forest resources for survival, especially on firewood” said Marika Kavtarishvili – FLEG II Program Coordinator for IUCN in Georgia, “This dependence leads to continuous ‘pilfering’ of natural resources, which has a serious, detrimental effect on forest ecosystems”.

The FLEG II Program will be completed at the end of December 2016, and the IUCN-FLEG II Georgian team is about to release a report entitled “Assessment of Forest Landscape Restoration Perspectives in Georgia”.

“This report is intended to be the follow-up action to the FDS that were carried out in 4 selected regions in Georgia during 2014-2015” said Ms. Kavtarishvili, “Fully-functioning forest ecosystems contribute to the economic and social development of rural communities, as demonstrated by the FDS. For this reason, we now want to take a step forward and work towards the application of the concept of Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) in selected areas of the country”.

FLR is defined as “the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes”1, and has the goal to restore a landscape to meet the present and future needs of local communities without jeopardizing the natural balance and biodiversity.

“FLR is not about just ‘planting trees’, but it entails different processes such as agroforestry, wildlife reserves protection, and riverside plantings, which must be planned and conducted in close collaboration with local stakeholders” said Richard Aishton, FLEG II Program Coordinator for IUCN, “Because of the relations we have built with all the actors of the forest sector throughout the FLEG Program, from top-level officials to heads of small villages and simple citizens, and because of the experience we have developed, we believe that we could conduct the transition from forest dependency analysis to a more comprehensive approach like FLR”.

The first step was to assess FLR perspectives which required the collection of a variety of data, such as geospatial information, digital cadastral data, and maps of land use and forest stands. Secondly, degraded areas were identified and a proposed restoration plan was drawn up.

“This preliminary analysis was followed by the most crucial part of the activity: the engagement of key stakeholders, especially local authorities and local representatives of the national forestry agency” explained Ms. Kavtarishvili, “We held a series of workshops in the four municipalities we selected, which are Tianeti, Akhaltsikhe, Akhalkalaki, and Chokhatauri, with the aim to illustrate the concept of FLR and discuss the village problems related to landscape degradation. We found the participants very willing to collaborate, and we began to cooperate with them and devise an action plan following the principles of ROAM (Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology), the IUCN’s guide to restoration”.

“Restoration of degraded forests and reforestation are two of the key priorities of the National Forest Concept of Georgia, approved by the Georgian parliament in 2013”, said Natia Iordanishvili, Deputy-Head of the National Forestry Agency of Georgia “For this reason, FLR activities carried out by the IUCN-FLEG II team in Georgia are of high value for us”.

According to a global assessment of restoration potential, there are more than two billion hectares of deforested and degraded land around the world where opportunities for some type of restoration intervention may be realised2. For this reason, IUCN encouraged the establishment of the Bonn Challenge, whose target, set in 2011, is to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s degraded land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

“The seven FLEG countries can play a key role in accomplishing the Bonn Challenge’s objectives” affirmed Mr. Aishton, “The report published in Georgia proves that this kind or restoration intervention are welcomed by the stakeholders. FLR, at least in Georgia, is the natural progression of activities that were successfully completed during FLEG II, and are a logical progression of strategies that can be implemented to better address and meet the goals of the SPD”.

2 Ibid.



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