Why this new funding?
Zeren Erik Yasar: Turkey has one of the largest forest areas in Europe. Its 22.3 million hectares of forested land contribute not only to the economy through timber harvesting, eco-tourism, etc., but also to water quality, flood prevention and climate change mitigation.
The country is well aware of the asset its forests represent, and in 2008 embarked on an ambitious forest policy with the aim of increasing its forest cover from 27 to 30% by 2023. AFD was quick to support this project: between 2012 and 2018, it made three loans to the Turkish treasury for a total amount of €450m.
The new two-year funding agreement signed on 17 April 2019 follows on from the previous ones. In total, the aid provided will have contributed to the reforesting or rehabilitation of almost 1.3 million hectares of forest and to measures to protect against soil erosion on as much land again. But the partnership goes much further than that!
What is planned in terms of technical assistance and public policy dialogue?
As for each of its three earlier loans, AFD will be accompanying this one by coordinating and funding contact between French experts and those of the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry (Orman Genel Müdürlügü or OGM). But this time, the technical assistance provision, which represents a donation of approximately €800,000, will be extended to encompass new themes and involve a wider range of French organisations.
As well as the National Forest Office (ONF), which remains the linchpin of this operation, AFD plans to involve the National Institute for Agricultural Research (Inra), the civil defence service (Sécurité Civile) and the Departmental Fire and Rescue services (SDIS), the National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (IGN) and even certain private forestry cooperatives. These organisations represent a genuine body of French expertise in forest management.
This expanded cooperation should help the Turkish authorities to draw up, by 2020, a national climate change adaptation plan for the forests and a biodiversity roadmap, with the aim of making these issues strategic elements in their forest policy.
Why is it important to plan the adaptation of forests to climate change?
With global warming, the pressure on Turkey's forests has increased. They are no longer only threatened by the development of human activities. They are suffering from more frequent forest fires, long periods of drought and a multiplication in the number of forest pests.
Dealing with these threats requires knowing more about them and reflecting on the possible measures that can be taken to counter them. That's why we have planned a substantial scientific cooperation component. In particular, genetic research work will be carried out to try and understand why certain plant species manage to adapt better than others to the consequences of climate change.
This work will also be of interest to France, since Turkey's climate offers, to some extent, a foretaste of what the French climate could become in a few decades' time and therefore of what its forests might be expected to have to cope with.
"A PUBLIC POLICY DIALOGUE THAT IS REACHING MATURITY"
It has taken Turkish and French stakeholders some time to identify the subjects of shared interest that will give rise to enhanced cooperation. The loan agreement signed in April adds a number of more qualitative indicators to the usual quantitative ones, such as areas reforested or protected against erosion: indicators on scientific cooperation, prospective studies, the setting up of experimental projects and more effective institutional communication.
These initiatives provide further opportunities for dialogue on how to maximise and promote the contribution of Turkish forests to climate issues, and - another new feature of the current initiative - to the conservation and enhancement of an outstanding biodiversity.