Sustainable forest restoration unites regional leaders in Skopje
10 October 2023
The event featured a Ministerial round table, bringing together ministers responsible for agriculture, forestry, food, and water management from the region
Skopje, 6 October 2023 - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Economy of the Republic of North Macedonia, in partnership with the 'Hans Em' Faculty of Forest Sciences, Landscape Architecture, and Environmental Engineering, convened an event in Skopje, focusing on best practices and experiences in forest restoration.
This gathering falls under the FAO Technical Cooperation Project titled "Technical assistance for strengthening the national capacity of the forest service." Its primary objective is to bolster the Macedonian forest sector's role in the national economy and rural development by enhancing forest monitoring and restoration planning. During the event, leaders and experts from the Western Balkan region exchanged best practices and experiences in forest restoration while emphasizing the significance of regional cooperation in forest management.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Fatmir Bytyqi, Deputy of the Prime Minister in charge of economic affairs, coordination of economic sectors and investments highlighted North Macedonia's commitment to aligning with EU forestry policies and international agreements on environmental protection. He emphasized the country’s commitment to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG target 15.2 focusing on sustainable forest management and restoration. He mentioned the country’s participation in the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration and the Bonn Challenge, with North Macedonia pledging to restore and afforest 15 000 hectares of land as part of the revised National Strategy for Sustainable Development of Forestry.
"The primary objective of this event is precisely in that direction – to collectively strengthen the role of the forestry sector, advancing its contribution to the national economy through enhanced monitoring and planned forest renewal. Simultaneously, our aim is to bolster rural development and promote the natural beauty of our forests to every individual," said Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy of North Macedonia Ljupco Nikolovski at the event's opening. "Forests are key to sustaining life on our planet, providing us with clean air, water, and biodiversity, while also enhancing our resilience to climate change. I am particularly encouraged by the collective commitment that I see today for the preservation of our forests and the well-being of our communities," he underlined.
Nabil Gangi, Officer-in-Charge for the FAO Regional Office, Deputy Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia and De facto Head of FAO North Macedonia, affirmed FAO's dedication to assisting countries in the sustainable management of their natural resources to improve livelihoods. ‘’We are delighted to support the Government of North Macedonia in enhancing forest monitoring capabilities and scaling up forest restoration efforts in the years ahead. Our collective aim is to advance the economic value of Macedonian forests while preserving these precious resources as an integral part of the nation's natural landscape’’ – he pointed out.
The event featured a Ministerial round table, bringing together ministers responsible for agriculture, forestry, food, and water management from North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Montenegro. They exchanged insights on forest restoration and afforestation as strategies for addressing the regional challenges posed by climate change.
Minister Nikolovski underscored that the green transition represents a paramount priority among the five strategic imperatives of both the Ministry and the Government of North Macedonia. He stressed that afforestation stands as a pivotal objective for the successful implementation of green principles within the government's agenda. "We're actively partnering with the European Union to reform North Macedonia's forestry sector in line with European standards," said Nikolovski. He highlighted the Ministry's Program for Extended Reproduction of Forests, which directs the afforestation of barren areas, erosion-prone lands, and the recovery of fire-damaged forests. This initiative saw the successful planting of 400 000 seedlings throughout the country last year, with ambitious plans to plant an additional 1.2 million in 2023.
Vladimir Jokovich, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic System and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management of the Republic of Montenegro, emphasized Montenegro's rich forest heritage and preservation efforts. He discussed ongoing reforms for sustainable state forest management, highlighting priorities such as resilience, rural development, wood industry competitiveness, forestry profession development, burnt area restoration, and climate change adaptation.
Anila Denaj, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Albania, highlighted the undeniable impact of climate change on the nation's forests. In collaboration with the World Bank, Albania is pioneering the introduction of a Digital Platform for Climate-Smart Agriculture to help farmers towards adopting more sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, Albania is channeling its efforts into the modernization of irrigation and drainage systems while incorporating renewable energy sources to conserve and protect the environment – she explained.
Faton Peci, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Development of Kosovo, underscored the importance of regional cooperation, stressing that Kosovo's government is actively working with international partners such as the European Commission, USA, FAO, Japan, Sweden, and Germany to protect and restore its forests. These collaborative efforts focus on improving forest management, preventing floods, and managing the risk of forest fires and other natural disasters.
Deputy Minister Miroslav Marinov highlighted Bulgaria's commitment to afforestation, particularly in combating soil degradation and erosion while preserving land quality and water balance. He revealed that 30 percent of Bulgaria's afforestation efforts focus on anti-erosion measures and mentioned EU-funded automated container sapling production in Bulgaria's forest nurseries. Marinov discussed Bulgaria's response to forest fire challenges through experimental afforestation and irrigation practices, as well as innovative biodiversity conservation in forestry using demonstration sites.
At the collaborative event, academia representatives from North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered insightful presentations, covering a wide range of topics, including best practices in forest restoration, silviculture, and reforestation challenges. Their discussions encompassed plant material production, afforestation strategies for barren terrains, hydroseeding for land restoration, eroded area recovery, and biomass production.
Kenichi Shono, FAO forestry officer, shared a global perspective on best practices in ecosystem restoration, shedding light on management options for degraded coppice forests, as a valuable source of renewable biomass, drought-resistant roots, ecological flexibility, diverse habitats, various products and ecosystem services.
The exchange of best practices and experiences in forest restoration and management sets a promising course toward a greener and more resilient future for the Western Balkans and beyond.
 All references to Kosovo should be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)