Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Forest Ecosystem Co-management with Local Communities in Kyrgyz Forests

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Forest Ecosystem Co-management with Local Communities in Kyrgyz Forests


The Background of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz Republic

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked republic in the eastern part of Central Asia [1]. It is bordered in the north by Kazakhstan, in the east by China, in the south by China and Tajikistan, and in the west by Uzbekistan[1]. About 80% of the country is covered by the mountainous region, the rest is made up of valleys and basins [2]. According to World Bank in 2011, the Kyrgyz republic is considered as one of the countries with a very high incidence of poverty[3]. Kyrgyzstan was formerly part of the Soviet Union, in 1992, it became independent. However, the country has experienced major social, economic and political upheaval after that[2]. What is more, widespread complaints of corruption and a deepening divide between rich and poor are big problems there. In that way, forest management in Kyrgyzstan cannot be seen in isolation from this troubled background[2].

Introduction to the Kyrgyz Forests

Forests only account for a relatively small proportion in Kyrgyzstan, it is around 863.6 thousand ha, equally to 4.32% of national territory[4] [5]. Forest lands area in Kyrgyz are about 3279.3 thousand ha, approximately 16% [4] .

There are 4 main typical forests in Kyrgyzstan:

  1. The spruce forests(Picea schrenkiana Fisch. et May.) can be found in the west, in the centre of the country, in the centre of the country and in the higher parts of the ranges north of the Fergana valley, mainly in altitudes between 1,700 and 3,000 m.a.s.l [5] [6].
  2. Walnut-fruit forests can be found in the northern and north-eastern slopes of the Fergana valley. The walnut-fruit forests of Kyrgyzstan are considered to be the biggest remaining areas of this particular forest type worldwide and therefore to be of global significance for biodiversity conservation[5].
  3. Juniper forests (Juniperus spp.) can be found in arid conditions or in very high altitudes up to 3,500 m.a.s.l. in the very south of the country and dispersed over the country. These forests are typically open stands, formed by tree and crawling forms of Juniper[5].
  4. Riverside forests occur in all parts of the country along streams and rivers, typically with species from the genera willow (Salix), poplar (Populus), birch (Betula) and tamarix (Tamarix), sometimes also with sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.)[5].

Main Forestry Laws and Policies in History

  1. In the 19th century, the management of forest has been part of state policy since the Kyrgyz Republic joined Russia;
  2. In the 1920s, It then became part of the Soviet Union. The leskhoz were established within the context of Soviet economic planning. Leskhoz were basic economic units charged with organizing rural livelihoods and providing many basic social services;
  3. In 1991, the Soviet Union’s collapsed;
  4. In 1995, The Swiss government has collaborated with the Kyrgyz government in developing its forestry sector[2]. The Kyrgyz-Swiss Forestry Support Programme (KIRFOR) covered a wide range of activities, including collaborative forest management (CFM). Forest sector policy has gained a significant degree developed and implemented, which completed in 2009[7];
  5. In 1999, the key legal document of Forest Code (FC) is became effective. According to FC, the State Forest Fund (SFF) is made of state-owned forests, which are now distinguished from municipal (local government owned) and privately owned land. All SFF lands are divided into forest land units[7].

The Role of Kyrgyz Forests for Local communities

The small kyrgyz forests provide vital environmental functions, ensuring water supply and serving as a valuable gene pool for many plants and animals. The biodiversity of kyrgyz forests is very rich and diverse, which plays an important role in economic, social and environment in the livelihoods of communities, almost 41% of the population depending on the forest for living [7] [8] [9]. Local communities living in the forests usually do not have many economic opportunities due to the mountains are far away from towns. Forests are very important for maintaining livelihoods and cultural values of local communities[9].

However, the forest resources in kyrgyz forests are often mismanaged, lacking transparency and poor engagement of all stakeholders [7]. Number of conflicts about accessing to the forest resources aroused between government and local communities and forest management [7] [8]. What is more, the environmental degradation, high rate of poverty and illegal logging are all serious problems there [7]. Between 1990 and 2010, there were about an average of 5,900 ha or 0.71% forest cover lost per year [10]. Such issues threaten the forests and the livelihoods of people that depend on them[8]. It is urged to improve sustainable forest management and encourage the forest ecosystem co-management with local communities in Kyrgyz forests [3]. The main causes of most conflicts are concluded as below:

  1. Unfair distribution: the distribution of forest plots for haymaking, collecting firewood, and grazing is often based on kinship or friendly relations between the leskhoz and certain users.
  2. The processes of plots allocation is not open;
  3. Leskhoz staff abuse their power: they use forest resources as their own, harvest the resources for themselves and/or for sale;
  4. Leskhoz staff harvest and sell timber ignoring the strict prohibition on cutting timber;
  5. Conflicts between official forest plot users and those who are denied access to the forest[7].

Tenure arrangements

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Land tenure is considered as an institution. Societies invented such rules to regulate behaviour and define how property rights to land are to be allocated within societies. They define how access is granted to rights to use, control, and transfer land, as well as associated responsibilities and restraints [11]. In Kyrgyz Forests, most forests are the state property of Kyrgyz Republic under State Forest Fund (SFF)[12]. In 1960, the forests have been attribute to the first group [12]. in 1999, the forest code has assigned to them full nature protection status pursuing mainly ecological, sanitary and hygienic functions and other protective purposes with prohibition of industrial wood protection [12]. The 3.5 million ha, approximately equal to 17.7% of the land area (including municipal forests, forests of protected areas, and assigned forests) were covered by the SFF[7] [8]. The additional 0.3 million ha of forests in Kyrgyzstan that remain outside the State Forest Fund, these areas are either managed by local self-governing bodies or rural communities[7]. Lease and special permits are 2 formal arrangement govern the use of forest resources[7].

  • Seasonal lease and long term lease: Local communities in kyrgyz forests use forests for many purposes including timber, grazing animals, beekeeping and colleting fruits and so on. If they want to use the land for production purpose, they need to formalize through a lease agreement [7]. There are several different types of lease arrangements. The leases can be seasonal or long term with a limit of up to 49 years, and subleasing forest land is prohibited [7]. In the lease agreement,the 5 information must be included :
  1. Borders of the forest plot leased;
  2. Types and volume of use allowed; „„
  3. Duration of the lease agreement; „„
  4. Payment amount and terms;
  5. Responsibilities of lessee for forest projects and protection[7].
  • Special Permits: Felling permits and forest permits are 2 types of permits for use of forest resources in Kyrgyz Forests [7]. There are many limits about these permits, for example, these permits are only issued for one season, even though the user need more time to harvest resources[7]. The forest permit could be treated as a ticket, it not only can grants formal permission for the use of Forests with non-timber forest products(NTFP) and also specifies the type and amount of resources that can be extracted. It also clarifies the period during which collection is allowed. In addition, the users need to pay for the rated when NTFP are used for commercial purposes [7].
  • Collaborative Forest Management (CFM): In 2001, CFM was formally introduced, aiming to encourage the partnership between governments, forestry management, and the local communities for sustainable forest management [2]. The lease for Collaborative forest management (CFM) or community-based forest management (CBFM) was designed to empower a group of households or a whole community to manage large patches of forest land to better preserve the forests while improving their livelihoods [7]. However, there are some the problems of CFM. It divides forests into plots of three to five hectares (ha), each managed mostly by an individual household, which could lead to the fragmentation of forest ecosystems and can damage biodiversity[7]. CFM may causes some key issues including loss of biodiversity, diseases occured in forest ecosystems and soil deteriorated. Furthermore, the conflicts between communities and leakhoz may be increased due to the competition for grazing land leases. and users lack the incentives to protect the forest ecosystem [7].

In the case of pasture outside of forest farms (leshoze), right of use are granted in the form of leases, for which fees are collected by the village government (Ail Okmot) and shared with the regional (Rayon or oblast) authorities [12]. In the case of pasture within of forest farms (leshoze), the leshoze is responsible for management and can allow access through sub-lease [12].

Administrative arrangements

The institutional framework for forest management is a vertical hierarchy within the Division of Forest Ecosystems[8] . The State Agency of Environmental Protection and Forestry (SAEPF) under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic is in-charge of the management of forests to oversee territorial divisions and ground level forestry enterprises, or leskhoz[8][12]. The agency implements the country’s forest policy through the following activities:

  • Management and protection of all lands under the forest fund;
  • Reproduction of trees and other flora for regenerating various natural ecosystems;
  • Development of hunting farm facilities and their use;
  • Development of the special protected natural territories and conservation of biodiversity;
  • Protection, reproduction, control of the use of wild animals and their habitat[12].

The forest policy is aimed at the systematic consideration of the forest problems and ensuring of transition from the use of forest resources to efficient management of forests with the purpose of conservation and augmentation of the national forest wealth[12].

Affected Stakeholders

Central government (Prime Minister’s office, President’s Administration, Ministry of Finance)


  • Ensure overall environmental sustainability, economic development, and poverty reduction;
  • Obtain revenue.

Relative power:

  • Establish a wider policy towards sustainable natural resources management;
  • ƒƒProvide funding to implement reforms;
  • Ensure coordination between agencies and sectors;
  • Ensure institutional stability [7][8].



  • Protect and regenerate forest;
  • ƒƒObtain revenue[7].

Relative power:

  • ƒƒGenerally lead reforms;
  • ƒƒƒƒDevelop implementation arrangements for reforms;
  • ƒƒƒCoordinate with other agencies and sectors;
  • ƒƒƒƒUndertake information dissemination;
  • ƒƒƒƒOrganize capacity-building programs for foresters and users;
  • Provide technical support to leskhoz;
  • ƒƒRun capacity-building programs for leskhoz;
  • ƒƒCoordinate with other state agencies at the regional and local level;
  • ƒƒMobilize investments [7][8].

Leskhoz (the local-level forest management entities at the core of forest management in the Kyrgyz Republic) Leskhoz are composed of forestry units. There are a total of 819 ranger districts in 157 forestry units of 42 forestry enterprises [7]. These enterprises manage about 82 percent of the total SFF land, with the rest of the forests on SFF land being within national parks, specially protected areas, and nurseries [7]. What is more, Leskhoz territory includes forested land and open land for planned afforziestation in varying proportions. Land without forest cover is often used as pasture, and in a few cases it may be suitable for cultivation [7].


  • Implement plan;
  • Obtain revenue [7].

Relative power:

  • Developing and submitting proposals on the planning of forest activities to the central forestry body;
  • Implementing forest use and other productive activities;
  • Implement reforms on the ground;
  • Constructing roads, storage, fire stations, housing, and other facilities;
  • ƒƒInteract with stakeholders;
  • Allocating on-the-ground forest units within the SFF for use;
  • Cooperate with local governments and community groups;
  • Issuing felling and forest permits;
  • Entering into lease agreements;
  • ƒƒDisseminate information;
  • Establishing state enterprises in livestock, beekeeping, timber processing, and the processing of wild fruits, berries, and medicinal plants;
  • Operating ecotourism, hunting, and fishing enterprises;
  • Allocating and using mineral resources as well as other natural resources located in their areas [7][8].

Rural Development Fund (RDF)

RDF is currently working, in a close partnership with state counterparts and local communities, to fine-tune and document the forest ecosystem co-management model. Moreover, as representative of the NGO sector in the republic’s Committee for Reform of the Forestry Sector, RDF can directly feed the experiences derived from the pilot sites in the further development of innovative legal frameworks for the co-management of forests [8].

Communities remote from forests


  • Income through subleasing or being hired labor; subsistence use of NTFP, fuel, and construction wood;
  • Good quality natural resources, such as water, air, protection from disasters[7].

Relative power: Cooperate with leskhoz on forest management and improvement[7].

Community groups living near forest


  • Ensure access to resources for group;
  • Ensure fair benefit sharing within group;
  • ƒHave good quality resources[7].

Relative power:

  • Cooperate with leskhoz and local government on management, improvement, and protection of forest lands, especially areas such as grazing land and riverside forest
  • ƒƒMobilize community groups for SFM
  • ƒDisseminate information in community groups on SFM[7].

Interested Outside Stakeholders


Objective: Promote sustainable forest management (SFM).

Relative power: Develop and test approaches and arrangements for SFM and finance reform initiatives[7].


Objective: Support SFM.

Relative power: Act as agent for grassroots capacity building[7].

NTFP businesses

Objective: Generate revenue .

Relative power:

  • Cooperate with users and communities on marketing TNFP products;
  • Cooperate with leskhoz on undertaking some production functions[7].


Aim of the Case Study

In order to fully engage local communities in understanding their rights and responsibilities related to the management and use of natural forest resources, increase local income and promote forestry biodiversity, the non-governmental organisation RDF (Rural Development Fund) has introduced a model of forest ecosystem co-management[8]. It fully engages local communities in understanding their rights and responsibilities related to the management and use of natural forest resources. Additionally, it is the first management model considering the conservation of the forest ecosystem and the use of forest resources equally in Kyrgyzstan. What is more, it does engage the whole community rather than the individual forest users [8]. The new forestry management model started from 2010 to present in in Batken and Chon Kemin regions of Kyrgyz forests, this case study is going to test the new forestry approach[8].

Main Issues

There were some issue overall commitment from the Kyrgyz government list below:

  1. Unfair distribution of forest plots for haymaking, collecting firewood, and grazing (i.e., distribution is often on the basis of kinship or friendly relations between the leskhoz and certain users);
  2. Joint cooperation between communities and local government needed to be improved imediatedly. Numerous of illegal logging happened and environmental awareness of children and adults were very low;
  3. Inadequate funding to support the implementation of the forest ecosystem co-management. Funding, in fact, was not sufficient to provide even basic protection and maintenance work in the forests;
  4. Leskhoz staff use forest resources as their own, harvesting them for themselves and/or for sale;
  5. Changes in leadership of the forest management are too often;
  6. A lack of monitoring of the implementation of the declared policies and action plans by the SAEPF has further decreased institutional incentives to undertake reforms [7][8].

Main activities to combat the conflicts

1. Set-up of Local Institutions: In the frame of the project, RDF facilitated in establishing new informal local institutions – meikyn jamaats (Landscape Communities). The jamaats (all members of the community) were established, carry out their activity according to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic and the following laws of the Kyrgyz Republic: On local government, On Jamaats and their associations, and associated bylaws [8].

2. The Community Ecosystem Conservation and Management Plan was established. It describes the activities that need to be carried out by the community members in order to conserve the forest ecosystem:

  • Patrolling the community forest area in order to suspend illegal logging and poaching in the community forest;
  • Increasing environmental awareness of villagers, including school children, by distributing information on the importance of the forest, endangered species and necessity of their protection;
  • Conducting participatory monitoring of forest and biodiversity of the community forest;
  • Preventing of and fighting against forest fires;
  • Replanting of local forest tree species and fast-growing trees and bushes;
  • Establishing and maintaining community forest nurseries;
  • Regulating the number of livestock grazing in community forest areas and nearby pastures;
  • Building the capacities of the meikyn jamaats;
  • Developing and maintaining facilities for eco-tourism in the region[8].

3. Participatory planning for use, management and conservation of existing forest resources Within the scope of this model, RDF developed a methodology that jointly provided training to community members and forestry unit-representatives, following which a participatory inventory of forest resources was conducted to develop a baseline of basic available forest resources in the respective community forestry plots. Inventory results were then used by the pilot areas to develop an overall framework for the Community Ecosystem Conservation and Management Plan for a period of 5 years. The Plan was then included in the leskhoz/national park action plans and later on approved by the leskhoz/national park administration and local self-government[8].

4. Promoting better conservation practices In consultation with the meikyn jamaats, RDF Kyrgyzstan also encourages afforestation of endemic species to strengthen the resilience of the ecosystem. The holistic management and conservation approaches practiced by the community, based on local traditional knowledge and best practices, went hand-in-hand with the strong commitment of local communities to protect the forest[8].

5. Importance of the case for people-centred land governances The co-management undertaken by the local community and local government unit for managing and conserving forest resources demonstrated the benefits of allocating use rights to local communities, and including communities in the management of forest resources that they use. The application of this model resulted in the sustained use of forest resources to support the immediate livelihood needs of households that depend on the forest[8].

Relative Successes

The community co-management of the forest plots, which started in 2012 and continues today, is showing positive effects in a number of areas:

  • Illegal logging has been decreased: There is almost 0 illegal logging happened in the local community managed forest plots. In the entire Chon-Kemin National park, the cases of illegal logging has decreased from 2076 in 2012 to 648 in 2013;
  • Environmental awareness of children and adults in the communities has increased: the jamaats hold various meetings and organized many trainings to increase the awareness of the importance of environment. What is more, the local communities's traditional conservation knowledges have been used in the project to promote sustainable management and use of natural forest resources;
  • Joint cooperation between communities and local governments has been increased: The conflicts between the government and local communities have been reduced largely. The communities ecosystem conservation and management model of RDF was acknowledged as a good practice by governmental authorities, donor communities and a wide range of skate holders in Kyrgyz forests[8].

Relative Failures

However, there are still some process needed too improved:

  • Agreements need institutional back-up

It is important that the communities are supported in their co-management by the state and by the local government with the leskhozes (local government units) and institutional back-up. The leskhozes need to attach more importance to the community co-managed forest resource use, management and conservation[8].

  • Policy Makers

Policy makers should realize the need for sustainable use of forest resources. Additionally, Co-managed forest resources policies can help by developing a legal framework for co-management and by popularising the idea of co-management amongst local communities[8].

  • Need More National support

Support is often needed with help from local forestry units (leskhozes) to changes in policy and management frameworks and to further decentralisation of forest management to the community levels[8].

  • The lack of adequate local capacities, information and institutions to effectively manage natural resources[8].


Forest ecosystem co-management needs to be considered in the context of these incentives. The interests and incentives that drive key stakeholders on the ground, particularly leskhoz, have created the current climate in forestry management. The institutional and legal frameworks that shape their activities—as well as the basic economic incentives of individuals who are affected by forest management, from poorly paid leskhoz employees to various community members—also contribute to the system’s function and dysfunction. The picture below is a composite picture of stakeholder interests and their ability and means to influence policy and implementation of sustainable forestry management practices.

Mapping the Power and Incentives of Major Stakeholders


What follows is a set of recommended strategies in different arenas for increasing forest ecosystem co-management with local communities in Kyrgyz Forests, including new and innovative solutions.


A special legal provision for forest ecosystem co-management should be integrated into the National Forestry Development Concept. Also, a separate survey document could be developed to research societal consensus on this forest governance issue. Strengthening the local communities in the Country Development Strategy could be the first step. To do this, create policy and legal environment for strengthening resilience through harmony between communities and their landscape based on community management of mountainous ecosystem resources [9].

Forest management

The forest management should focus on installing accountability and governance safeguards in work of community committee, on developing participatory management plan with monitoring on raising awareness developing policy and legal recommendations [9].

  1. Review and ensure alignment within policy direction, the legislative underpinning of that policy, and the on-the-ground realities of how forests are used now and may be used in the future;
  2. Address the poor incentive structures within leskhoz management by revising their administrative and financing frameworks;
  3. Integrate the management of leskhoz lands suitable for pasture to the overall pasture management systems;
  4. Increase involvement of communities through a deliberate, gradual process;
  5. Other CBFM implementation methods need to be considered;
  6. Consider an enhanced role for local governments in holding leskhoz accountable;
  7. Solicit assistance to continue capacity support at both the national and local levels [7].

State forest governance institutional

The reform of the state forest governance should continue in the direction of decentralization, deconcentration and privatization[1]. Institutionalization of the separation between regulatory/control functions and production functions should continue. The handing over of productive activities to the private sector should be reflected in the next forestry National Action Plan. At the same time, more operational responsibility should be shifted to the field level (to the state forest management units - local communities). Concerning power decentralization, more responsibilities in forest management should be shared between forest management units and local communities and their Local Self-Governments.

  1. Completion of development of Model for Community Co-management for Mountainous Ecosystems (CCME). the government should finalize the forest ecosystem co-management, and will be testing these tools and provide feedback for their finalization with the RDF [9];
  2. Strengthening capacity of local communities: RDF in consultation with the members of local communities should develop capacity building program on organizational issues based on their needs, governance mechanisms, including on transparency, accountability, inclusion; RDF should announce a competition and also will form contest commission for realization the program of small projects [9];
  3. Developing recommendations and mainstreaming in a policy: On the basis of this innovative model of Community Mountainous Forest Ecosystems Co-Management there will be developed the specific policy recommendations for the State counterparts on how the co-management regime of forestry enterprises and protected areas can be effectively implemented. The developed and tested innovative model is expected to be mainstreamed into the forestry sector policy.
  4. To create policy and legal environment for strengthening resilience through harmony between communities and their landscape based on community management of mountainous ecosystem resources. The Project would focus on installing accountability and governance safeguards in work of community committee, on developing participatory management plan with monitoring on raising awareness developing policy and legal recommendations [9].


There is urged to organize regular enhancement training and capacity building on the issues of economic reform in the forest sector. Thus, we can increase in the basic salary of foresters. What is more, increasing foresters’ basic salary would be to lobby for the state forest management units to use generated income for wage increases as an incentive tool to motivate the staff.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Carter, J., Grisa, E., Akenshaev, R., Saparbaev, N., Sieber, P., & Samyn, J.-M. (2010). Key highlights in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management Revisiting Collaborative Forest Management in Kyrgyzstan: What happened to bottom- up decision-making? Revisiting Collaborative Forestry Management in Kyrgyzstan. Retrieved from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kuhlman, C. (2016). Kyrgyz Republic Forest Management and Poverty. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from
  4. 4.0 4.1 Azat, К. (2011). Financing for Sustainable Forest Management in the Kyrgyz Republic State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. Retrieved from
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 FAO. (2006). Poverty and forestry - A case study of Kyrgyzstan with with reference to other countries in West and Central Asia. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from
  6. Japan International Cooperation. (2012). The Project for the Support for Joint Forest Management in the Kyrgyz Republic. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 7.23 7.24 7.25 7.26 7.27 7.28 7.29 7.30 7.31 7.32 7.33 7.34 7.35 Undeland, A. (2012). THE DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL OF FORESTS IN THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC. Retrieved from Kyrgyz report_web_0.pdf
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 8.21 8.22 8.23 International Land Coalition Secretariat. (2015). Engaging local communities in forest ecosystem co‑management. Retrieved from
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Rural Development Fund. (2015). Community Co-management of Mountainous Ecosystems Model in the Kyrgyz Republic - Rural Development Fund. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from
  10. Butter, R. (2010). Kyrgyzstan Forest Information and Data. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from
  11. Bulkan, J. (2017). Introduction to tenure and property.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 Orozumbekov, A., Musuraliev, T., & Toktoraliev, B. (2009). Forest Rehabilitation in Kyrgyzstan. IUFRO World Series 2009 Vol. 20 No. 4 Pp. 131-182, 131–182.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
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