Preserving Biodiversity in Afghanistan

 Zahir, a park ranger in Band-e-Amir National Park, where UNDP runs projects with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Global Environment Fund’s Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP) to protect the environment and provide clean energy to local residents. Photo © UNDP Afghanistan / Rob Few / 2015

Decades of conflict and uncontrolled logging have decimated Afghanistan’s forests. Once tree cover dips below 15 percent it is impossible to prevent topsoil erosion and maintain air quality, but in Afghanistan coverage is already down to 3 percent. If current trends continue, all forests are likely to disappear in the next 30 years. 

As the forests disappear, so do other plants and animals, including many endangered species. This loss affects food security, resilience to natural disasters, energy security and access to clean water and raw materials. It is particularly devastating for the 85 percent of Afghans who live in rural areas and rely on natural resources to make a living.

The Afghan government has an ambitious plan to increase the proportion of forest from 2 percent to 10 percent by 2017. However, institutions lack the resources, outreach and staff capacity to enforce anti-logging legislation in most parts of the country. Illegal logging, combined with limited understanding of the value of biodiversity, remains the most immediate threat to forests and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.

The government has recognised four natural sites as areas requiring special protection – Band-e-Amir National Park, Big Pamir Wildlife Reserve, Teggermansu Wildlife Reserve and the Wakhan Conservation Area. But protected areas will have no real impact on biodiversity unless their size is increased and measures are put in place to ensure sustainability. 

Response

 Ranger training program in Wakhan conservation area. Photo © Wildlife Conservation Society / 2015

UNDP helps manage and expand protected areas in Afghanistan. 

We are supporting the establishment of Afghanistan’s Parks and Wildlife Authority. The new institution will create a legal, policy and institutional framework for protected area management.

It will be granted clearly defined legal powers, such as recruiting personnel, creating budgets, securing funds, and providing a quick response to local conditions, including entering into contracts with communities and private sector partners for park development.

We work with government other stakeholders to develop and test regulations protecting forests, and provide economic incentives to preserve soil fertility, watershed stability and forage productivity for local communities. Over the next two years we will scale up these approaches to expand benefits to communities who live outside of protected areas.

We bring communities together to have their say on how natural resources are managed, and we help communities adapt to droughts and floods that threaten livelihoods and the environment.

What have we accomplished so far?



  • The Afghanistan Parks and Wildlife Authority is established and has the legal and institutional power to plan, implement, monitor and expand protected areas in collaboration with local authorities and communities as required under the National Protected Area System Plan.
  • The Afghanistan Parks and Wildlife Authority acquires adequate infrastructure, personnel, budget and technical and managerial capacity.
  • The Afghanistan Parks and Wildlife Authority and the protected areas have strategic operations and long-term financial sustainability plans.
  • Clear procedures are in effect to establish new protected areas in Afghanistan and enshrine them in law.
  • Protected area management plans are drafted and endorsed for the Wakhan Conservation Area and the Teggermansu Wildlife Reserve in preparation for their formal legal establishment. 
  • Sound protected area management is implemented for the four pilot areas by bringing together communities and local authorities to jointly manage forests through structures that are supported at the national, provincial and local level.
  •  Long-term monitoring and evaluation systems are in place for protected area management, target species and ecosystems.
  • Community based natural resource management plans are integrated into protected area management plans

Who Finances it?

Donor name

Amount contributed per year in US$

2015

GEF

2,233,185

2014

GEF

103,348

2013

GEF

140,000

Delivery in previous fiscal year in US$

Dec 2015

1,825,306

Dec 2014

15,935

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