Forests provide important benefits to rural communities including wood for construction and fuel, non-wood forest products such as mushrooms, berries, nuts and medicinal plants, and grazing for domestic animals. They protect villages from landslides and floods and prevent erosion of agricultural lands. Forests also provide wider benefits which are important at a national and even global level: they are an important storehouse for biodiversity; they help protect water supplies and water quality; and they contribute to climate change mitigation by sequestering.
Many forests in the Caucasus region, which are used by rural communities have been, and are continuing to be, degraded. The communities which are using the forests do not have an incentive to take care of the forests: they do not own the forests; they do not have secure rights; in some cases they need the land for grazing their animals; and the people know that if they do not take the benefits someone else will, therefore it is better to take them while they are available. State forestry authorities do not always have the resources to be able to prevent unsustainable use and the local self-government bodies which are responsible for forests do not have the resources and technical knowledge.
Conflicts can arise between the objectives and activities of the organisation which is responsible for managing a forest territory and rural people who use the forest territory or for whom the territory has some special cultural significance. Conflicts are more likely in cases where communities have acquired customary rights and where the forest management organisation’s use of the forest ignores those rights.
REC Caucasus addresses these environmental problems by consulting with communities and by making information about forest management plans and activities easily accessible to wide audiences.
Our projects: Fostering Community Forest Policy and Practice
The project aims to promote the adoption of policies that are pro-community involvement, to elaborate the legal framework necessary for implementing community forestry, and to provide recommendations on technical aspects of implementing community forestry. The aim of the project is to raise awareness and build capacity of local communities and local authorities for sustainable forest management and demonstration of methods of restoring and improving degraded forests. The project contributes to implementing policies and measures called for by international agreements, including agreements made in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Forest Europe process.