2.5 million hectare of forest landscape will be restored by countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia under the Bonn Challenge by 2030. The commitment was made by Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at the first Ministerial Roundtable on Forest Landscape Restoration and the Bonn Challenge in the Caucasus and Central Asia, held on 21-22 June 2018 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The meeting also adopted the Astana Resolution, committing the region to go beyond 2.5 million ha, and strengthen partnerships and regional cooperation to this end.
Ministers and country representatives used the opportunity to align national and regional restoration and planting efforts with the international Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 350 million ha of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2030. The Bonn Challenge was launched in 2011 by the government of Germany and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Significant progress in forest landscape restoration has already been achieved in many of the countries, for example the green belts around Astana and Ashgabat, and the extensive afforestation of the dried out bed of the Aral Sea. “In the period between 1997 and 2008, Kazakhstan established forests on an area of over 83,000 ha around the city of Astana. This is one of our country’s many initiatives aimed at the creation and restoration of forest landscapes. By 2021 the green belt surrounding Astana will exceed 100,000 ha”, said Yerlan Nysanbayev, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
However, taking into account the scale of the restoration challenge, it is of great importance to mobilize internal and external resources to increase forest areas whilst improving livelihoods. In the Caucasus and Central Asia region, many areas can benefit from forest landscape restoration. In particular, forests near settlements, mining sites, riparian forests, and forests on slopes require urgent attention.
“Scaling up efforts to restore forest landscapes is vital in harnessing the many important benefits that forests bring – to our ecosystems, economies and societies at large, as well as for strengthened climate action. Committing to and implementing national pledges under the Bonn Challenge can therefore boost countries’ efforts as they progress towards the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and their national commitments under the Paris Agreement”, welcomed Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE.
“The solution is sustainable forest management,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. “It is a globally accepted goal, one out of the 17, ensuring sustainable development.”
Rakhmanin cited a flagship FAO report from 2015 on forest resources, according to which the global loss of forest cover averaged 3.1 percent during 1990 and 2015. “FAO has developed the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism and helps its member countries in many other ways in shaping approaches towards a more harmonious integration of forestry and agriculture while enhancing food security and forest maintenance,” he said.
National commitments under the Bonn Challenge can also help to provide a coherent policy investment framework for restoration, and support countries in reaching other targets including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Global Forest Goals.
“By joining the Bonn Challenge, these countries are committing to working toward common sustainability goals,” said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “IUCN has worked closely with partners worldwide to guide countries in defining their restoration targets and moving from pledge to implementation, and is ready to provide assistance to countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia as well“.
The Ministerial Roundtable was organized jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section, in cooperation with IUCN and with the kind support of the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.