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Woodland Heritage helps internationally… a Georgian forester


Back in 2001 we helped Ilia Osepashvili to attend a Continuous Cover Forestry Workshop at the Boughton Estate, Northampton. At the time Ilia was doing PhD research at the University of East Anglia on “sustainable forest management and policy”. He was hoping that one day he would be able to implement this in his native country of Georgia in the former Soviet Union. Ilia regularly attended Royal Forestry Society (RFS) meetings in East Anglia, making new friends and contacts. He supplemented his research by working on the Sotterley Estate in Suffolk. Ilia’s enthusiasm for forestry so impressed us that WH Trustees decided to help him a little more. So in 2003 we sent him off to the CCFG Study Tour, which was held in Litgist, Austria and hosted by Professor Josef Spoerk (see Journal 2004 issue 9).

Surrounded by other experienced and eminent foresters, Ilia thrived on this Tour and wrote to say how this had been a wonderful opportunity for him. In the summer of 2004 we received a short and hasty message from him saying that he had to return to Georgia and that he did not have a forwarding address. It all sounded rather ominous, but Ilia did not forget WH and in October 2005 he made contact...

“Please forgive my long silence… After returning to Georgia in 2005 I worked for a few months at the Ministry of Environment. Unfortunately, it was not interesting and had almost nothing to do with forestry. In February 2005 I got a three-month consultancy position with the Food & Agriculture Organisation in Rome (within the framework of the Forestry Outlook Study for the West & Central Asia). After returning from Rome I spent a few months at home in Georgia and have recently got a new job as a Senior Forest Officer at the WWF Caucasus Programme Office in Tbilisi. My major duties are to lead the implementation of the Forest Conservation Strategy for the Southern Caucasus (including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the north-eastern part of Turkey). The work is very interesting, but quite demanding at the same time. My best wishes to Woodland Heritage and thank you – without your support and belief in me I could not have done this”.

And then on Boxing Day 2005, we received another email...

“May this New Year bring greatest success to Woodland Heritage and British forestry in general. A few words about my job so far as a Senior Forest Officer for the WWF Caucasus Programme.We have made a press release of our forest strategy and I have already submitted two project proposals (one on combating illegal logging and the other on forestry standards and benchmarking) to the Ministry of Environment in Georgia for consideration and expression of their views. However, this process has been delayed due to the on-going examinations at the Ministry (the testing of employees to select the best professionals). The intentions are good, but the process is too slow and painful (protests about biased examiners etc…). Hopefully, this process will be over by the end of January and we would then be able to actively co-operate with the Ministry. The Georgian forestry sector is in turmoil at the moment. There are still no generally accepted policies and strategies, while the Government wishes to give out much of the state forest area (nearly 100% of all Georgian forests at present) to long-term lease/concessions. In the meanwhile, our WWF Caucasus team is actively working to achieve the conservation of at least 15% of the Georgian forests in protected areas (Nature Reserves and National Parks) by the year 2010, under the ‘Gift to the Earth Initiative’. At present only 7% is protected. That’s basically all for now and I am looking forward to our future communication”.

Although battling against government policies and strategies, Ilia has finally realised his wish, to help implement sustainable forest management and policy in his native country. We are immensely proud of him and will certainly keep you posted on his progress.

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