he forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) rarely make international headlines. They are often overlooked in global debates on forest preservation and sustainable management. Nevertheless, these forests are essential for this vast region, whose total area is almost equal to that of the European Union. They play a key role in protecting land erosion and soil loss, safeguarding precious biodiversity, serving as carbon sinks, and supporting the livelihoods of the overwhelmingly rural population inhabiting the region.
To support evidence-based management of these forests, UNECE and FAO have published bilingual (English/Russian) studies on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, providing a detailed overview of forest resources and the forest sector in each of the countries, as well as policies and institutions in place for addressing challenges for sustainable forest management.
“As such, they offer a practical resource for policy-makers in the region to plan and implement policies that will help local communities enjoy the full range of benefits provided by their surrounding forests, while ensuring that, at the same, such benefits will also be available to future generations,” said Ekrem Yazici, FAO Forestry Officer.
Presently, forests cover in total only around 4 and 13 percent of the territory in the eight countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, except for Georgia, where this number is closer to 40 percent. Forests have succumbed over recent decades to pressures exerted by the region’s characteristic harsh climate – exacerbated by climate change – overgrazing, and excessive forest cutting is undertaken to provide fuelwood for local communities.
“Forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia are so diverse and important, and they deserve more attention from, and recognition by, national and international communities. We hope that these publications will help mobilize support and resources for their proper protection, sustainable management, and restoration”, said Roman Michalak, Economic Affairs Officer, who coordinated the preparation of these studies.
But natural and anthropogenic difficulties are not the only things that make sustainable management of forests in this region particularly challenging. Until recently, little information about the state of forests in Central Asia and the Caucasus was available internationally. Besides, the information available so far was scattered through various publications and sources, with none of them focused on the region’s specificities and challenges.
In an attempt to change this, and in close collaboration with national experts, UNECE and FAO launched the first-ever comprehensive overview of the State of Forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia back in 2019. This overview was followed and complemented by “Guidelines for the Development of a Criteria and Indicator Set for Sustainable Forest Management in the Caucasus and Central Asia,” as part of the project for strengthening the national capacity of countries in the region to develop national criteria and indicators, as well as accountability systems for sustainable forest management.