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 had 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 recognized 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.
UNDP supports National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) through the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to manage and expand protected areas in Afghanistan.
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 year 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 we have accomplished so far?
- 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