CENN/WRI Study Shows Social Cutting Is the Main Driver of Tree Cover Loss in Georgia

The unsustainable use of forest resources is one of the most urgent issues in Georgia today, with tree cover loss affecting the national capacity to produce goods and ecosystem services, including many protective, scientific and commercial services ranging from living space and food, to climate regulation and genetic resources. The State Forest Fund is a highly valuable national asset and its misuse can be a threat to sustainable development.

One of the key elements of a sustainable forest management system is comprehensive forest-related information, including data on the driving factors behind tree cover loss. Quantitative national-level information on the factors causing deforestation and forest degradation are widely unknown in Georgia. Given the current gap in the knowledge, CENN began investigating the factors that lead to tree cover loss in the country, in cooperation with the World Resources Institute (WRI), under the Global Forest Watch (GFW) initiative, funded by the Global Environment Facility.

This study provided essential information for policymakers at local and national levels to craft necessary policy actions and reduce the negative impacts of deforestation and forest degradation.

The study indicates that social cutting is by far the main driver of tree cover loss in Georgia, perhaps the result of interactions between social, economic and political influences. This is followed by forest fires and forest conversion into agricultural land. Mining and industry also play a role, as does, to a lesser degree, urban expansion.

Since 2011, entities specified by Government of Georgia are eligible to obtain firewood and timber resources by means of social cutting. Considering the low purchasing capacity of firewood, rural households are not in a position to reduce their consumption level, despite gasification as an alternative energy source in some rural areas. The New Forest Code of Georgia 2019 plans to abolish the current method of “social cutting,” which often sees illegal logging of firewood by “social loggers” who aim to sell the resources for profit.

To improve coordination, accountability and transparency, within the New Forest Code, it is planned to establish the “Organized Forest Consumption” approach, whereby the eligible entities purchase firewood from “specially designated places” monitored by the state body.

The government has already sent the revised Forest Code to Parliament for confirmation.

By carrying out such studies as the one presented here, both governments and citizens are better enabled to define strategies and interventions to deal with national and local drivers

concerning the factors driving forest loss. Such knowledge-sharing also allows for a more informed decision-making process and, on a larger scale, helps support ongoing international climate discussions and negotiations.

19 August 2019 17:16