The European Union and the World Bank support Moldova in restoring biodiversity for sustainable future and citizens’ well-being

Biodiversity underpins the provision of essential ecosystem services such as purification of air and water, soil fertility, and climate regulation.

In Moldova, forests are vital to Moldova’s economy and environmental well-being, as well as its path to EU membership. They provide shelter to 80% of the country’s biological diversity, create jobs, protect against storms and floods, and are part of the nation’s identity. These woodlands have a high economic impact for agriculture, water, tourism and other sectors.

However, as a predominantly agricultural country with limited forest coverage, Moldova has been facing challenges such as degrading tree stands, loss of native species, and excessive harvesting. With increasing heatwaves affecting the country’s landscapes, the role of forests in providing the well-being for both human and non-human species has become even more critical.

European Union – a long-standing partner in forests conservation

Since 2014, relations between Moldova and the European Union (EU) strengthened with the signature of the Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The commitments include harmonizing the country’s legislation with the EU acquis communautaire.

Recognizing the role of forests in building national wealth, citizens’ well-being and the environment, the EU and partners have been actively supporting Moldova in sustaining and enhancing its biodiversity through a range of initiatives and projects. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to protect natural ecosystems, combat biodiversity loss, and address the impacts of climate change. As an EU candidate country, Moldova has pledged to meet specific environmental and economic indicators to ensure the long-term health of its forests. The collaboration included an EU-funded regional programme Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG), initiated in 2009, with the aim to examine and address forest governance in the Eastern Partnership countries (EaP). In 2019, the EU launched the EU4Environment Programme that strives to strengthen sustainable management of natural habitats, reduce land degradation, expand a shared network of protected areas, and promote community-led action in forest conservation.

As part of this effort, the World Bank, as one of the implementing partners, has been supporting the Government of Moldova to adopt a policy framework for the National Forest Extension and Rehabilitation Program (NFERP) for 2023-2032. Under the NFERP, over the next 10 years, Moldova’s forest cover is expected to expand from 13.8% to at least 17% of the country’s territory. This will be achieved by planting new forests on 110 000 hectares and rehabilitating existing forests on 35 000 hectares of state, communal- and privately-owned land. And in addition to restoring landscapes, improving soil fertility and protecting watersheds, these forest restoration activities will provide nearly 14 000 jobs to rural communities.

Adam Grodzicki, Deputy Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Moldova stresses that “The European Union aims at making sure that forests are healthy, growing and resilient in the context of climate change. As a member state to be, Moldova will need also to embrace EU policy targets and sustainable forest management practices. This should be done in parallel with better management of river basins, protected areas, agricultural land and pastures, and a sustainable bio-economy more generally.”

The NFERP will help Moldova align its goals of restoring forests and sustainably managing its ecosystems with the European Green Deal, the EU’s strategy to achieve climate targets, including climate neutrality by 2050. The new EU Forest Strategy for 2030 is now part of the European Green Deal’s flagship initiatives. This strategy underscores the crucial role forests and forest-based value chains play in achieving sustainable and climate-neutral economy by 2050 while protecting and strengthening resilience of ecosystems.

A recent study, Identification of High Conservation Value Forests in the Republic of Moldova, completed as part of EU4Environment for the first time based on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) principles, provides a comprehensive overview of Moldova’s forestry sector. According to the study about 175 500 hectares of forest land, representing 47.3% of the country’s total forested area, are high conservation value forests (HCVFs). These forests are crucial for biodiversity and provide long-term benefits. The study’s findings can guide the development of relevant policies and legal frameworks to strengthen Moldova’s environmental and economic security. These efforts will also support the country’s capacity to adapt to climate and water shortage challenges.

Sanjay Srivastava, Practice Manager for Environment, Natural Resources and the Blue Economy, in the Europe and Central Asia Sustainable Development Department of the World Bank, highlights that “Forests provide multiple benefits such as livelihoods for local communities and habitats for conservation of biodiversity. The study’s findings will contribute to sustainable forest land use. They will open up opportunities for forest managers, forest beneficiaries, and forest owners on the local well and for unlocking potential investments by international donors to nurture and support Moldova’s forestry sector.”

 Communities play a crucial role in protecting Moldova’s biodiversity, as forests have long been a vital source of livelihoods and an integral part of the cultural life of the people. The EU4Environment program is supporting communities by enhancing their capacity for sustainable management of forests and other natural resources. By mapping the interdependencies between communities and their environments, and developing practical guidelines for natural resource management, the program fosters local engagement and empowers rural livelihoods. This approach will not only strengthen the resilience of Moldova’s ecosystems but also ensure that conservation efforts are closely aligned with the needs and traditions of forest-dependent communities.

In addition to international commitments and initiatives related to forests and land use, Team Europe –  a coalition led by the European Union including the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other partners, has undertaken significant initiatives to support Moldova in increasing its forest cover. This initiative is part of the broader goal to sustain biodiversity and enhance environmental resilience. The EU played a crucial role in mobilizing funds for reforestation projects. These projects aim not only to expand forested and protected areas but also to improve the management of existing forests, ensuring their health and sustainability​.

Together, Moldova, the European Union and the World Bank are finding ways to better protect the country’s biodiversity and investing in forests—helping build a more resilient, sustainable future for all.

Published on 24/05/2024

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