Collaborative Forest Management in Kyrgyzstan: Moving from top-down to bottom up decision making
This paper describes one of the first attempts to introduce a collaborative approach to forest management in a former Soviet-governed country. It highlights some of the challenges of developing a participatory approach in a country accustomed to top-down, centralised decision-making and outlines some lessons for similar efforts in other nations in transition. As a result of the country’s Soviet past, there are strong reservations about group or community-based work. Instead, the most acceptable mechanism for collaborating with local people in forest management has been through long-term leases taken by households or small household groups. Recognised weaknesses of the project are a lack of orientation to poverty alleviation and to gender issues; these are beginning to be addressed. Particular issues likely to be shared with other countries in transition are the difficulty of promoting participation; a possible resistance to group work; a context in which forests are becoming more important to rural livelihoods than they were; a potentially growing disparity between rich and poor; and a possible need for new forest management techniques.