Armenia historically had forests covering 35% of its current territory. Unfortunately, the forest coverage has dropped recently to a historic low of 7-8% today. This severe situation means that Armenia is on the list of the “low forest coverage countries” of the world and puts Armenia on the track for intensive desertification, loss of springs, rivers, sever erosion and other major problems.
We need to change this and move away from the mode of deforestation to a mode of reforestation and protection.
Building upon the rich history of Foundation-initiated Armenian Forests NGO, the Tufenkian Foundation is a leader in the protection of natural resources. “From Need to Greed”— although significant poverty still remains, the situation of the early 90’s energy crisis, post Independence economic collapse war, and energy crisis is past.
There are still some people cutting nearby forests for fuel, but the much larger culprit of deforestation is the industrial, illegal cutting by businesses to sell within Armenia and for export to Iran and the West. Deforestation is a critical problem in Armenia and related to other key problems in the country including widespread corruption, lack of rule-of-law, severe poverty, lack of affordable energy alternatives, short-sighted mentality (grab it now while we can), the greed of a few and the disempowerment of the many. Current Foundation projects in the area of protecting forests & biodiversity include:
• Being a leader in developing reforestation in Independent Armenia
o Established what will be Armenia’s first community forest in Odzun village in Lori Marz where we planted 125,000 trees on 100 hectares (247 acres) with over a 90% first year survival rate
o Conducted three reforestation projects in Kotayk village, Kotayk Marz totaling 48 hectares (119 acres) • Currently supervising the largest reforestation project since Independence. We are monitoring and checking the restoration of 1,200 ha (2,964 acres) of degraded forests in Tavoush and Lori Marzes funded by the World Bank within the Natural Resource Management and Poverty Reduction Project. Started in fall of 2006, this project will run through 2008.
• Leading a two year project funded by CEPF (Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund) focusing on an awareness campaign and engaging stakeholders in protecting biodiversity throughout the Armenian portion of the East Lessor Wildlife Corridor (Vayats Dzor and Syunik Marzes). The campaign project runs 2006 through 2008 and focuses on stopping the poaching of two flagship animals which are both under severe threat and on the IUCN international red list of globally threatened species—Armenian Mufflon and Bezoar Goat—and their forest habitat.
• Engaging local communities and experts in Yervan and regions to get input on draft regulations (bi-laws) to go under the new forest code (following up our work to get that drafted and passed). This input then stands as formal recommendations to the government for content of the final regulations.
• Co-Initiating and leading Eco-Armenia and its Save Our Forest Campaign is working in the following areas:
o Conducted, along with other EcoArmenia members (WWF Armenia, Armenia Tree Project, and the Environmental Conservation & Research Center at American University) and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), a study partially funded by the British Embassy into the current economics of illegal logging in the country. This landmark study conducted by Economy & Values shown light on this very shadowy sector of the economy. It fortunately received great media coverage and illuminates some key directions for curbing this illegal industry.
o Strengthening the Forest State Monitoring Center and being key members of their advisory board.
o Developing a large-scale campaign to shift Armenia from the mode of deforestation to reforestation
o Funding, releasing and airing a series of world-class documentary films by Vem Media Arts thereby raising awareness on key environmental issues in Armenia.
• Conducting ongoing media advocacy, lobbying and awareness activities aimed at building support to curb illegal cutting and export of wood, as well as promotion of activities aimed at mass reforestation in