Forests make up around 40% of Georgia’s total area covering approximately 2 620 676 hectares out of which 95-98% are natural forest. About 98% of forests are located on the slopes of the Greater and Smaller Caucasus mountain ranges and mostly carry soil-protecting, water-preserving, water-regulating, sanitary and other protective functions.
Additionally, the Georgian forest resources are of utmost importance in the process of reducing the negative impact of climate change. Forests have important cultural, recreational and social functions, as the forests in Georgia are sources of fruits, nuts, mushrooms, medical plants, honey and other non timber products, which are collected by those within the rural population. They are sources of timber which is crucial for well-being of country’s population. At the same time, many forest areas are degraded as a result of overuse of the forest resources and are increasingly susceptible to pest infestation and forest fires due to climate change. Thus, there is an urgent need to introduce sustainable, ecosystem-based forest management.
Although heavily subsidised, the cost of electricity and natural gas remains too high for the majority of the rural population. As a result, most private households and, in places, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) too, resort to using firewood. Around 70% of rural households are connected to the gas network, but only 2-3% of them use it for heating. At the same time, the stoves in use are not efficient and negatively affect the air quality in the buildings they heat.
The rural population's high dependency on firewood for cooking and heating is one of the main drivers of forest degradation in Georgia. With the Forest Sector Reform the Government of Georgia aims to use of forest resources more sustainably. The process of National Forest Program (NFP), encompassed the representatives of governmental and non-governmental sector, professionals and academia, aims to improve framework conditions to this end by supporting proposals for administrative procedures to implement ecosystem-based forest management and strengthen the political and administrative conditions. The NFP process has being reformed and has working groups that carry out regular meetings to discuss issues related to forestry legislation, the management, , supervision, information and monitoring systems. A new Forest Code provides the legal basis for the establishment of a national Forest Information and Monitoring System (FIMS) and lies the foundation for addressing various aspects of sustainable forest management. New sub-legal acts on Forest Use; on Forest Protection, Restoration and Maintenance; on Record Keeping System, Categorisation and Monitoring of the Forest are being developed within ECOserve considering elaborated national Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management.
Moreover, planned as part of the Forest Sector Reform (FSR), the phase-out of the social wood programme, and the illegal logging it has brought with it, should offer incentives for promoting energy efficiency and the use of alternative renewable energy sources. Marketable products customised to specific target groups as an alternative to the unsustainable use of biomass (firewood) for heating and cooking purposes such as improved stoves and building insulation are being scaled up in order to generally reduce the demand for fuelwood. Environmental education and information measures are also being implemented, including an awareness raising campaigns (based on communication strategy) on the benefits of sustainable forest management and energy efficiency, the value of forests and the provisions of the FSR. In Georgia education of forest workers is specifically addressed. Through designing an official training programme for forest work specialists together with partner organisations and four VET colleges, ECOserve contributes to a more sustainable implementation of forest management measures through better educated forest workers. More than 150 people already graduated from the supported colleges and many more will be trained to apply their newly gained knowledge on sustainable forest management in the future.
The programme also supports the optimisation of the Georgian Forest Management Inventory and Planning (FMI/P) as a pilot activity in the municipality of Akhmeta. This is done in order to demonstrate and prove the benefits of statistically solid data collection for close-to-nature forest management planning, and the monitoring as a basis for sustainable forest management. In specific, a new pilot approach of the FMP will be developed based on improved inventory data for future use and more active public participation while planning and decision making to support sustainable forest management activities. For providing nationwide reliable data for strategic decision-making, ECOserve supports the first National Forest Inventory (NFI) of Georgia. Permanent sample plots are measured all over the country and the analysis of their aggregated data will result in detailed information on the current state of Georgia’s forests, e.g. to be used for international reporting obligations and for strategic decisions on state level. In order to establish a centralised database for all official forest-related data, FIMS is developed and being established within ECOserve in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture.
The FIMS provides robust data on Georgia’s forests stemming from different sources to different user groups. This presents up to date information for forest management and easy data access for international reporting obligations to the respective authorities for strategic decision making on a national level, as well as making the availability of data to the general public more accessible. The data shall not only serve to improve communication across departments and ministries throughout the country but will be used on a harmonised methodology for the FMI/P adopted country wide and can also be used for dialogue exchange throughout the region.
More information on GIZ activities in Georgia can be found here.
- Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA)
- Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (MESD)
- LEPL National Forestry Agency (NFA) of MEPA
- Agency of Rural Development and Agriculture (ARDA) of MEPA
- Caucasus Environment NGO Network (CENN)
- Energy Efficiency Centre (EEC)
- World Experience for Georgia (WEG)
- Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus (RECC)
- Ilia State University
- Agrarian University
- Georgian Technical University
- Akhmeta municipality Administration
- Tbilisi city Hall