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10/03/2016

Once upon a Time the Soviet Style Forest Management… and then?

IUCN Consultant Stefan Michel shows the size of fresh brown bear paw print on a forest path in Kharaguli Municipality, Georgia (Photo by L. Gelashvili).
A ploughed strip in a local forest in Belarus. Ploughed strips help prevent the spread of possible forest fires. (Photo by S. Michel)
IUCN Consultant Stefan Michel together with Azer Garayev, FLEG II Country Program Coordinator for Azerbaijan, and J. Garibov, Director of the State Forestry Enterprise of Ismayilli District in Azerbaijan. (Photo by N. Agayev)
Inventory map of the communal forests of Milesti municipality in Moldova (in yellow: black locust; in green: hornbeam). (Photo by S. Michel)

A new Regional Study analyses the governance of local forests in FLEG II countries

LOCAL FOREST are defined for this article as: ‘forests that are located in close distance to rural and urban settlements and are of special importance for the wellbeing of the respective local people in terms of provision of forest resources and ecosystem services.’

Twenty-five years have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Throughout this period of time, the post-Soviet states had to establish new institutions and legislative corpora, which led to the development of diverse types of governance systems. During this reform phase, what happened to the forest sector and, specifically, to the management of local forests?

A new study undertaken in the framework of the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Program (FLEG II) attempts to describe and analyse the existing schemes of governance of local forests in the six ENPI East countries and Russia.

“In the Soviet times, there was a special category of forests called local forests.  These local forests were administrated by state and collective farms, known respectively as sovkhozes and kolkhozes, and which represented an important resource for rural populations both in terms of consumption and income creation” explained Stefan Michel, IUCN Consultant and author of the study, “After the collapse of the Union, the governance of local forests developed autonomously in each country, and developed very diverse systems.  In some cases, a stark contrast to the system from which they came was established. Some countries integrated all local forests into centrally governed state forests, some others established subnational management entities or handed them over to local municipalities”.

This Regional Study will be released in spring 2016 and its main aim is to contribute to policy review and reform of the forest sector in FLEG II countries.

“The importance of the study is twofold” pointed out Mr. Michel, expert in nature conservation and management of natural resources in post-Soviet countries, “First, it provides an in-depth overview of the current forest governance systems in the region. Second, it helps define and clarify the components of effective governance and identifies best local forest governance practices as well as common obstacles and difficulties”.

Quick Facts
The study builds on 5 Case Studies from 5 out of the 7 FLEG II countries, namely Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The six ENPI East countries and Russia hold together 20% of the world’s forests

The region covered by the study holds approximately 20% of the world’s forests. This represents an aspect of great value but, at the same time, a considerable challenge.

Mr. Michel travelled through six of the seven FLEG countries to gather all necessary information and build five Case Studies. The region presents a vast variety of ecological, economic, social, and political situations, which made this experience incredibly interesting but also difficult to understand thoroughly in a limited period of time.

“The real challenge was to give a comprehensive overview of all relevant factors without oversimplifying them. It was also challenging to analyse such a huge amount of primary and secondary information, both oral and written” said Mr. Michel, “The practical organisation of the visits was not a piece of cake either, as the region is characterised by many conflict zones, which prevented me from travelling into some areas and caused a few difficulties to travel from one country to another. The local Program Coordinators were therefore of utmost importance to gain precious information and opinions, to arrange meetings with stakeholders, and to support the trips”.

All these factors contributed to making the study unique and of outstanding quality. The stakeholders anxiously await its publication.

“This study represents an invaluable tool to assess the quality of governance of local forests in the FLEG countries, and governance is a fundamental factor that determines whether forest resources are used efficiently, sustainably, and equitably” concluded Mr. Michel, “Its added value rests on the combination of a detailed overview of local forest governance in the region with illustrative cases, which show the concrete governance systems’ impacts on the environment”.



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