Assessing Forest Dependency in Eastern Europe

In a land with communities as diverse as its politics and landscapes, survey attempts to quantify human dependency on forests

Consultant M.S.Lazareva holds a hand-made wicker basket given to her by this couple in Belarus after she surveyed them for the forest dependency study. The forest provides this community with heating, mushrooms, berries and other forest products and is...

“That really made us more careful before entering the yard,” explains Tetyana Zhyla, one of the consultants hired to conduct the first survey in Eastern Europe to quantify how and how much the people there depend on forests as part of their livelihoods.  

Dogs are common means of security in rural areas of Eastern Europe, explained Zhyla. And in the rural Carpathian mountain villages of Ukraine, dogs are kept on long chains, plenty long enough to reach the gate of the fence.    Over the last four months, consultants have braved watchdogs and other daunting challenges to complete surveys of over 1250 households in forest communities in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. The goal of the study is not only to quantify how people rely on forests, but also to help determine whether that reliance is sustainable into the future and why.   “People in Eastern Europe have been living in and around forests for countless generations and have their own unique relationship with the forest,” said Richard Aishton, FLEG II Program Coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “We hope this study will be valuable not only to the local and national officials as they set and enforce forest policy that directly impacts these people, but also to larger efforts to better understand the human dependency on nature, no matter where we live.”   IUCN began to develop the idea, general methods and value of this type of work with its work on the Forest Poverty Toolkit.  The Toolkit was created in partnership with PROFOR, CIFOR, ODI, and Winrock International to provide a template for assembling relevant and accurate information about the relationship between forests and the poor. In continuation of this type of work, IUCN’s partnership in the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG II) program provided an opportunity to adapt a well-tested methodology applied in over 40 tropical forest sites by the Poverty Environment Network (CIFOR) in order to explore forest resource use amongst local communities in a vastly different region.   FLEG piloted the studies of forest functionality and of community dependence in some rural communities of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and to some extent in Russia during the first phase of the program in 2012 with some added funding from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). After earning government and other support there, they were able to further refine the methodology into a unified set of questions suitable for all seven FLEG II countries and secure the additional support necessary to expand the project throughout the region.    “We worked hard to prepare and implement this work, and the sample has already given us very useful results,” said Riyong Kim Bakkegaard, IUCN Consultant coordinating work on the survey.    By compiling the data from the seven countries, IUCN hopes to answer many questions, among them:   • What value does the forest have to these communities? • What forest-related products are significant? • Who in particular is most dependent on the forest? • How do these communities use the forest? For example, as a safety net? For current consumption?  • Why do they use the forest? • What are the sustainability implications of their relationship with the forest? • How does this relationship factor in or relate to national and regional forest policy? To climate resilient development?   IUCN is developing the HDN, a knowledge basket containing approaches, tools and standards and associated capacity building regarding the interrelationship between people and ecosystems. Through its development and application, it will allow for better data collection, documentation and understanding of local social-ecological contexts that are relevant to policy formulation and development interventions and that result in tangible improvements to livelihoods and well-being.     Under direction from Bakkegaard and IUCN FLEG II country program coordinators, consultants in the seven countries carried out the surveys between May and August of 2014. With the ground work complete, Bakkegaard and other consultants are compiling and analysing the results of the survey now and expect to release them at the FLEG II Forest Dependency Workshop at IUCN headquarters October 28-30, 2014. The final report will be available for peer review in the following months.   The FLEG II Program is funded by the European Union and implemented by the World Bank, WWF, and IUCN to support participating countries in improving forest governance. The Program aims to implement the 2005 St. Petersburg FLEG Ministerial Declaration by working with countries and sub-national authorities to review and revise forest sector policies and legal and administrative structures and to test and demonstrate best practices for sustainable forest management and the feasibility of improved forest governance practices at the field-level.    IUCN was an implementing organization, along with WWF and the World Bank, for the first EU-funded FLEG Program in the Eastern European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument-East countries (ENPI-FLEG I) from its inception in 2008 through its conclusion in 2012. The FLEG II Program began in 2012 and builds on the first ENPI FLEG I Program to support good forest governance, sustainable forest management and forest protection in the ENPI East region. It is scheduled to run through 2016.


Work area: 
Social Policy
Locally Controlled Forests
Climate Change
Locally Controlled Forests
South-Eastern Europe 
Southern Caucasus
European Union
Go to top