Fostering Community Forest Policy and Practice in Mountain Regions of the Caucasus
August 30, 2011

Background

During the centuries forests were existential basis for activities of the humans. As well as in other countries, in the Caucasus forests and particularly ones located close to populated areas had two main functions: economic and cultural/spiritual. Despite modern technologies development, changes in legislations, changes of forest management schemes during the last century forests continue to have two main abovementioned functions for local population especially in the mountain regions of the Caucasus.

Before total nationalisation of all forest lands in the former Soviet Union, forests located close to rural populated areas mainly had been considered as community forests. After introduction of collective farm system (kolkhozes) former community forests were leased for long period to these ‘Kolkhozes’. Disintegration of the Soviet Union was characterized by long-term economic crisis: shortage in fuel and heating materials influenced especially every-day life of rural communities. Former ‘Kolkhoz’ forests became main source for fuel-wood. This has been resulted in significant forest degradation. In addition, latter on, rural population started to use forests for industrial logging for income generation.

Abovementioned forced national governments of former soviet republics to consider new system of forest management. Government granted to all forests state status. For 2007 almost all forests within Caucasus region were under state management. In Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia forests have been transferred from former ‘Kolkhoz’ forests back into state ownership with destruction of ‘Kolkhoz’ system and introduction of the new legislations in the beginning and mid 90s. Former ‘Kolkhoz’ forests that provided user rights to communities during the Soviet era are typically located along high and lower mountain slopes and valley floors. In this context, it may safely be stated that most former ‘Kolkhoz’ forests are heavily de-graded through over-grazing and over-cutting. However, in recent year’s fast growing market economies and trends towards decentralisation in management of different sectors brought new challenges on the agenda of the Caucasus governments in terms of forest management. New forest codes declare ‘new’ types of ownership on forests in addition to state ownership. Currently, local (self-) governing bodies have certain rights and responsibilities over forests but their nature and scope is not fully clear. The exact area under local governing body control is not known because the legal process of transferring responsibility has not been completed and tenure, rights and responsibilities are twisted because of contradictions between different laws.

One of the problems of enforcement of innovative approaches to forest management stated in new national legislations is related to absence of institutional and legal mechanisms (e.g. technical guidelines, regulations, standards etc.) for sustainable community forest management. If the above mechanisms will not be elaborated and applied significant problems will be faced by a) national governments, as there is no system for monitoring and control; b) local (self-) governing bodies, as they will not be able to know what to comply with; c) general public and civil society, because of doubt on local (self-) governing bodies and local communities capability to sustainably manage community forests.

Description

The project is focused on development of new institutional, legal and technical set-up for community forest management and in particular supports securing land tenure and forest rights of local communities, implementation of institutional arrangements and land use policies for forest conservation and sustainable use. Also project supports awareness raising among local communities and local authorities on sustainable forest management its relation and impact on other fields such as climate change, poverty reduction, sustainable development etc. In addition immediate reforestation measures under the project can solve such problems as land-slides, mudflows, avalanches and consequently protect populated areas from natural disasters.

Objectives

The overall objective of proposed action is fostering community forest policy and practice in mountain regions of the Caucasus to address deforestation and climate change issues, secured land tenure and forest rights, rural poverty reduction, diminishing regional and national tensions and the risks of insurrections let by alienated elements, conservation and sustainable development needs of local communities.

The project’s specific objective is respond to current demands of the countries in 1) elaboration of relevant to institutional, legal and technical set-up for community forest management, 2) awareness raising and capacity building of local communities and local authorities on sustainable forest management and 3) demonstration of best approaches/methods of immediate reforestation and landscape restoration in areas affected by land-slides, mudflows, avalanches and other natural disasters preventing measures.

Donor: EC


Target groups

State authorities at the central/ autonomic republic levels (i.e. Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Territorial planning, Economic Development)
Local authorities/ self-governance
Local farmers and communities in the pilot areas
Local NGOs & CBOs

Project scope

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation

 

Regional Guideline for Community Forest Management, REC Caucasus publication:                                                              http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327481481.pdf

SWOT Analysis, Azerbaijan: http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327483642.pdf

SWOT Analysis, the Russian Federation: http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327483588.pdf

SWOT Analysis, Armenia: http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327481659.pdf

Information Booklet on Project "Fostering Community Forest Policy and Practice in Mountain regions in the Caucasus": http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327480716.pdf

Armenia Reforestation Photos: http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327482519.pdf

Azerbaijan, Reforestation Photoshttp://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327481904.pdf

Georgia Reforestation Photos: http://rec-caucasus.org/files/publications/pub_1327483431.pdf