25 Jun, 2019
By Jason Sohigian, Deputy Director
Forests are vital in fighting erosion and desertification in the harsh climates of Armenia. They host a wealth of biodiversity including the Caucasian Leopard and provide livelihoods for rural populations that have few other sources of revenue. These forests also serve as important sources of energy for cooking and heating and are critical in the fight against climate change and ensuring water security.
The forests of the region are special due to their role in protection against erosion and soil loss in highly vulnerable ecosystems. Almost 90 percent of the forests and other wooded lands are designated for protective functions. In many areas, non-wood products from the forests -- nuts, fruit and berries, hay, medicinal herbs, mushrooms, honey, flower bulbs, and tree seeds – play important roles in supporting rural livelihoods.
Armenia’s forests are subject to strong pressures reducing their quality and limiting their ability to perform protective and livelihood functions. There is excessive cutting to provide fuelwood and unsustainable grazing of livestock, and local forest management bodies are often ill-equipped and under-resourced to carry out their tasks.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and Food and Agriculture Organization released a first-ever study on The State of Forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia at the UN Forum on Forests in May (PDF available for download here). This is first regional overview of the forest sector in these countries since they became independent in the 1990s.
According to data published in this new report, Armenia’s forest cover is 11 percent, which is one of the lowest in the region. It is estimated that 3,000 people are employed in the forestry sector in Armenia. While there is a small wood processing industry in Armenia, the UN report explained that forest products are imported to Armenia from Russia, Turkey, China, Ukraine, and Georgia.
“The forest sector in Armenia is not currently being managed in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner,” write the authors Kit Prins and Ruben Petrosyan. “[This is] due to insufficient financial resources committed to the sector, overall lack of institutional capacity, best practices, and skill sets, and high demand for a limited amount of wood resources.”
Armenia has embraced the agenda of forest conservation and restoration. In 2017, Armenia ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, committing to increase its forest cover to 20 percent by 2050. This is a huge undertaking.
Armenia Tree Project and American University of Armenia’s Acopian Center for the Environment are co-presenting the inaugural Forest Summit: Global Action and Armenia on October 20-23, 2019 to tackle the issues presented by the Paris Agreement.
The goal of the Forest Summit is to facilitate open and rigorous discussion of policy decisions on Armenia’s forests with the aim of catalyzing improvements in forest conservation and restoration in Armenia and internationally. Attendees will have a chance to participate in plenary sessions, panels, breakout sessions, and field visits to forestry sites in Armenia. These will include Dilijan National Park and ATP’s nursery and educational facilities in Margahovit Village. Several international forestry experts are attending including Dr. Anthony S. Davis, Interim Dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.
For more information, please visit ForestSummit.am