Tackling unsustainable fuelwood harvesting in eastern Europe

In many countries of eastern Europe and Russia, forests are coming under increasing pressure from fuel wood harvesting. In some places, this harvest exceeds legal quotas and threatens the capacity of forests to regenerate.

Forest logging Photo: ENPI FLEG Program

Many rural communities in Eastern Europe are caught in a dangerous downward spiral. They depend on their local natural resources, and in many cases this dependence is at the subsistence level, for cooking and heating. This leads to continuous ‘pilfering’ of forests for fuelwood by many individuals and this practice is collectively beginning to have a detrimental effect.

Continuous small-scale fuelwood harvesting exacerbates the already-inefficient, large-scale legal resource extraction that is taking place in the region. The high rate of corruption and lack of enforcement of forest regulations lead to lost revenue for governments, the private sector and local people as well as loss of biodiversity. This serious combination will accelerate the depletion of the natural resource base, effectively eliminating communities’ sole source of survival.

The European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument—Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Programme (ENPI FLEG) Programme, in which IUCN is a partner, is responding to the growing problem of illegal forest activities in the participating countries—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine.

FLEG addresses the complex and politically-sensitive issues related to illegal logging at national and regional levels. It is one of the few mechanisms that link governments, businesses, academia, civil society and rural communities to develop environmentally and socially sustainable ways of managing and governing forests. Activities include the development of national action plans, training, awareness raising, increasing regional collaboration, and monitoring of illegal activities and government responses.

Last year IUCN in cooperation with the public association Silva-Mileniu III and FLEG Office Moldova carried out a survey of wood consumption by households and businesses in Moldova. Most of the wood consumption for energy comes from domestic forest resources and less from imported wood and rising prices of imported gas are adding to the pressure.

The impact of the work of ENPI-FLEG is much wider than simply improved forest management. Protecting forests and their resources helps secure livelihoods for local communities, provides sustainable and renewable energy sources, and reduces carbon emissions from forest degradation.

The ENPI FLEG Programme is implemented by the World Bank, IUCN, WWF and the European Commission.

For more information contact

Richard Aishton IUCN’s ENPI FLEG Programme Coordinator, richard.aishton@iucn.org

Watch a related video about tackling unsustainable wood harvesting in Azerbaijan, another ENPI-FLEG country.

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