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30 October 2020, Pristina, Kosovo – Launched this week, a new endeavor to strengthen sustainable and multipurpose forest management in Kosovo* has set sail with the ultimate goal of tackling rural poverty and climate change. Since forests have a major role in fighting climate change, they are also an important natural asset in Kosovo.

Altogether, by the end of the four-year programme, forests in Kosovo should be in better shape, and forest users should equally value its wood and non-wood products, environmental value, and ecosystem health.

The programme, designed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Rural Development, has received SEK 24 million (approximately USD 2.6 million) in financial support from Sweden. Contributions from the local authorities and the European Union Office in Kosovo are expected to follow by the end of 2020.

“We hope that this cooperation will ensure that global environmental and climate change issues are reflected, and will help create a common vision of necessary policy choices aiming to address current forestry and climate change challenges of Kosovo,” said Karin Hernmarck Ahliny, Ambassador of Sweden in Pristina.

The programme aims to improve forest management in three key areas: trade and law enforcement related to timber; transparency, governance, and implementation of forestry regulations and programmes; and forest management through adoption of multi-purpose forest management practices. All these will help Kosovo achieve European and international sustainability targets.

“Without proper forest management, Kosovo’s forests are in danger of gradual degradation,” said Raimund Jehle, FAO Regional Programme Leader. “Training and awareness-raising activities under this programme will bring about change in public perception and in the authorities’ approach.”

In the last years, forests in Kosovo have been exploited beyond a sustainable level to mainly provide heating. Recent studies suggest that, in order to save forests in Kosovo, better management and a more balanced use of forest resources must be applied.

“The programme will bring attention to the need to stop illegal logging. Among others, firewood harvesters and buyers will be given suggestions to use small-diameter thinning and salvage wood, instead of high-value wood,” said Daniela Mangione, FAO field programme officer and moderator of the launch

There are already frameworks in place on forest management, health, and reforestation; however, these require an additional support to serve their purposes.

“People in Kosovo should enforce the rule of law and develop a sense of collective responsibility for the future of their forests,” Jehle added.

The programme in practice

Forest areas, both public and private, will be used according to multi-purpose forest management principles. This approach goes beyond the perception that forests serve only as source wood for heating and considers forests’ non-wood products, as well as environmental, social, and recreational functions, in planning and maintaining forest areas.

Activities will enable Kosovo to meet its target of a five  percent increase in forest area. Afforestation and reforestation activities will mostly focus on single or mixed species planting, mainly broad leaves, for maximal timber and firewood production. The Kosovo Forest Institute will provide one million seedlings for this purpose.

Foresters, forest owners, public officials, and populations living near forests, especially youth and women, will be targeted with practical trainings, including on best practices for value chains of forest products and ecotourism. The programme puts an emphasis on gender equality and helping rural women on using forestry sector opportunities for income-generation activities.

The programme will introduce information and communication technology and remote surveillance tools, such as drones, and blockchain-based technology to better monitor and protect forests. Also, it will bring a new impetus and transparency to the Kosovo Forest Information System, established by a previous FAO project.

The programme supports realization of Kosovo’s Development Strategy for 2016–2021, Policy and Strategy Paper on Forestry Sector Development 2010–2020, Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (2014–2020), the UN Kosovo Team Common Development Plan, and further strategic documents.

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