Monday 21 December 2015

Towards Mediterranean development through innovative forestry

From policymaking to forestry certification and business creation, Mediterranean forestry actors need effective services and information to ensure a sustainable use of forests. To fulfil this need, the EU project MENFRI is developing an innovative approach, taking into consideration all actors of the forestry sector, and taking the form of effective, replicable and scalable modules to provide capacity building to local, national and regional actors.

“Mediterranean forests are at risk due to climate change and overexploitation. We gathered all kinds of stakeholders involved in Mediterranean forestry around the table to discuss the obstacles to a sustainable development of forest and we realised that there is a series of somehow interconnected issues that go beyond forestry” explained Enrique Doblas, CREAF researcher and coordinator of the MENFRI project.

“But we also realised that making available information and services as well as connecting all the actors implied would allow them to overcome most of their challenges.” That is why MENFRI is developing a Mediterranean development node to support social inclusion, employment creation and economic development as well as environmental protection. Driven by this capacity building objective, MENFRI organised last November the “Forestry Innovation and Development Week” in Morocco.  The objective was to hold a first set of training modules on forest certification, women empowerment and inclusion of unemployed in the forestry sector, for representatives from local and national administrations, cooperatives, academics, entrepreneurs, and international organizations. These training modules were organised in collaboration with PEFC, the world's largest forest certification system, DAFNE, University of Tuscia’s department of forestry machinery innovation, and SocialForest, a forestry company awarded for employing marginalized youngsters. The ultimate goal is for these modules to be replicable all over the Mediterranean and scalable to the local specificities.

"Organic certification helps small agricultural associations in the same way that sustainable forest certification could help communities living in forests" – Mr. Khalid Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Morocco.

Mediterranean forestry is a multidisciplinary sector leading to complex situations where many aspects are to be taken into consideration: regulation, finance, education, environmental management, social inclusion etc. Because all these aspects are interlinked, it is crucial to develop capacity building and put the different stakeholders in contact so that they can exchange on their experience and learn from each other to overcome obstacles such as access to education and training, barriers to private-public partnerships, inadequate legislative and financing framework, the need for innovation in the available geographical information systems, the lack of applied forestry technologies, etc.

Forest certification is a good example of how the creation of an economic market can lead to sustainable exploitation. Indeed, once forest owners and cooperatives will find a market on which their products will be sold at the right price, therefore attracting investors, interest for the sustainable use of the resources will grow. Forests will then be managed in an environmentally sound and economically profitable way.

These training modules, developed in collaboration forestry experts, will be also tested in May 2016 in Tunisia.

"The MENFRI project could boost the current initiatives of the Moroccan government in relation to forest conservation and valorisation and the support to local cooperatives for rural development” - Mr. Fayçal Benchekroun, High Commission for Waters and Forests and the Fight against Desertification, Morocco.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement n° 609542.