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08/02/2016

Moldova: Forest Dependency in a Nutshell

A local inhabitant uses a long stick to beat a walnut tree along the road until nuts fall down. Then, nuts are collected and either consumed by the family or marketed to supplement the household’s income. Moldova, Criuleni district (photo by Aurel Lozan).
These two vernal plants, the greater pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis) and spring pheasant's eye (Adonis vernalis), are species of the forest ecosystems and included in the National Red Book, but collected by local people and sold on the street to gain money for living. Moldova, Chisinau (photo by Aurel Lozan).

A survey conducted in three Moldovan communities shows their heavy dependency on forests

Along Moldovan country roads, endless lines of walnut trees hide in their foliage a real treasure, green round “coins” of great value for locals.

The recently finalized report “Forest Dependence Based on Surveys Conducted in Three Villages of Moldova” (available in English and Romanian) revealed that nuts, in particular walnuts, are an incredibly valuable resource for forest-dependent communities in the country. People collect them for personal consumption or sell them to specialized companies. Moldova has had a long tradition of walnut trade since the Soviet times, and is still one of the world’s biggest exporter.

“Walnut trees are a very common species in the country, and the established supply chain encourages this business activity” said Aurel Lozan, FLEG Country Program Coordinator for IUCN Moldova. “Walnuts alone represent 53% share of forest-related income, but this is not the sole interesting fact uncovered through our study. Another remarkable outcome we found is the heavy reliance of local population on fuelwood as their primary source of energy, mainly for heating and cooking”.

The report on forest dependency in the Republic of Moldova is part of a wider regional study undertaken in the framework of the second phase of the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Program (FLEG II), which compares the value of forests and forest resources for local households in seven countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.

Between May and August 2014, FLEG experts conducted a series of surveys in three Moldovan sample forest-dependent villages: Ciorasti in Nisporeni Rayon, Borceag in Cahul Rayon, and Alexandru cel Bun in Soroca Rayon (view map). These communities were selected because they provide an accurate representation of the three main eco-regions (northern, southern and central) and represent different types of forest-covered areas.

The socio-economic characteristics of the examined communities are very similar. Due to the heavy migration of the youth abroad or to urban centres, the population is composed mainly of older individuals. Moreover, the unemployment rate is rather high and a quarter of the inhabitants fall below the poverty threshold.

The experts conducted 150 interviews in random households, 50 for each village, using a common questionnaire. The Transylvanian University of Brasov (TUB), Romania, a FLEG partner, was directly involved along with IUCN to carry out the field surveys and data analyses.  Interviews were conducted by Elena Moșnoi, TUB field staff project, under supervision of Mr. Lozan. All data were then processed by Victor Zubarev, TUB project economist, under supervision of Bogdan Popa, TUB team leader for this activity.

A remarkable result of the study is related to illegal logging. The analysis revealed that fuelwood represents the largest share of forest related revenue for locals (31% in terms of total value and 23% in terms of frequency of total collection).

By comparing these data to those provided by Agency Moldsilva, the central authority in charge of forestry administration, it emerged that local communities use larger volumes of fuelwood than forest administrators can officially supply.

This data therefore indicates that a portion of fuelwood is not entirely legally sourced. Consequently, actions undertaken by public authorities to combat illegal logging, like those supported by FLEG to implement the Saint Petersburg Declaration, are fundamental steps  to guarantee the necessary amount of fuel to local communities and, at the same time, promote sustainable forest management.

The investigation also showed that, in those villages, forests represent the third highest source of income, which is quite an impressive result, if considered that woods cover only a small share of land.

Overall, the report highlights how Moldovan rural dwellers make use of forest resources to address their primary needs and, secondarily, to supplement their income. The most valuable forest resources turned out to be fuelwood for heating and nuts for personal consumption and as goods for sale.  

For more information, contact Aurel Lozan, Country Program Coordinator for IUCN Moldova aurel.lozan@enpi-fleg.org.



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