The Third Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry in Greater Central Asia concluded with a consensus on regional cooperation
The Third Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry in Greater Central Asia was held from 11-14 September 2023, in Chifeng, China, and attended by ministerial and high-level officials from China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in charge of forestry developments.
Group photo of the representatives(Zhang Hongliang/photo)
Around the theme of “Strengthening Forestry Cooperation and Promoting Regional Development”, representatives shared their latest developments in laws and policies, priorities, actions, accomplishments, challenges and gaps, as well as fields where regional exchanges and cooperations are urgently needed.
Dr. Lu De, the Executive Director of APFNet chairing the meeting (Zhang Zhigang and Zhaoke/photo)
The keynote presentations established a solid base for later consultations on how regional cooperations would be focusing and promising for several years to come.  
Mr. Tang Fanglin, Vice Administrator of National Forestry and Grassland
Administration of China making a statement (Zhang Zhigang and Zhaoke/photo)
China shared its actions and astonishing achievements in the National Land Greening Initiative and desertification prevention and control. Experiences include (1) strong political willingness and alignment in actions. (2) systemized laws and regulations, (3) policies cover and direct responsible agencies at various levels (4) resources invested in ecosystems are ensured. (5) programs must be able to incent participants and contribute to poverty reduction and livelihood improvements.
Mr. Musaev Almaz, Director General, The Forest Service under the Ministry of
Agriculture of the Kyrgyz Republic giving a keynote speech (Zhang Hongliang/photo)
Kyrgyzstan shared its remarkable achievements of forest cover increase by 3.37% to 6.28%, as of 2022 inventory data, after severed deforestation during 1930s-1960s and forest loss of 5.74 million hectares. 4 priorities for forestry developments are to (1) increase forests’ contribution to national GDP, (2) reduce poverty in the agricultural population, (3) increase forest cover by 10%, and (4) reform forestry with advanced techniques. To restore forest ecosystems, great efforts have been made on nursery establishment, seedling production, as well as forest plantation sites, which would also contribute to the national long-term goals related to climate change mitigation and emission reduction.
Ms. Sainbuyan Zoljargal, Senior officer, representing the Director General of the National
Forest Agency of Mongolia, giving a keynote speech (Zhang Zhigang and Zhaoke/photo)
Mongolia introduced its efforts in reforestation since 1970s, with a 200,000-ha area afforested, 535,000-ha degraded area reforested, and 1.2 million ha degraded forests naturally regenerated. While gaps remain in policies, planning, resources, personnel capacity, and so on, the Government has set Vision 2050, the national long-term development goals, to boost green development and ecosystem restoration. The Billion Trees movement is an excellent example of encouraging and incentivizing individuals and enterprises to contribute to increasing forest cover, decreasing severely desertified areas, and responding to climate change.
Mr. Sharipov Davlatali, Deputy of the Director, The Forestry Agency under the
Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, giving a keynote speech (Zhang Hongliang/photo)
Tajikistan’s presentation focused on its forestry strategy development, with objectives related to biodiversity, forest restoration, forest cover and productivity, ecosystem service enhancement, entrepreneurs’ engagements in forests and forestry, engagement of the public, women, and local communities to forest management for better livelihoods, and fulfillment of international obligations. To achieve these, priorities fall on (1) institutional reforms and funding mechanisms in the sector, (2) protecting and increasing forests by promoting cash trees, participatory forest management, and ecotourism, etc. (3) consolidating the basis for forestry by promoting seedling production and nursery establishment, enhancing management, budgeting and monitoring, capacity building, and technology reforms.
Mr. Atamyradov Nury, Head of Department, National Institute of Deserts, Flora and Fauna,
Ministry of Environment Protection of Turkmenistan, giving a keynote speech  (Zhang Zhigang and Zhaoke/photo)
80% of Turkmenistan’s land is desert. The National Forest Plan 2021-2025 has set goals for creating an environmentally friendly environment, reforestation and biodiversity conservation, sustainable forest management, conducting research, strengthening legislative frameworks, and international cooperation. Major actions include forest park establishment, protective forest belt formation, landscape improvement of the national tourist area "Avaza", seed harvesting, seedling production, rare plant cultivation, reforestation in areas affected by the Aral Sea, documentation normalization, and forest inventory and monitoring. Delightful progress has been achieved with measurable and visible evidence.
Mr. Bakirov Nizomidin, Director, Agency of Forestry of the Republic of Uzbekistan,
giving a keynote presentation (Zhang Zhigang and Zhaoke/photo)
Uzbekistan emphasized its commitment to responding to the Bonn Challenge, by restoring 500,000-ha forested land. To fight desertification, actions have been taken to increase the area of afforestation and survival rates, and progress seems promising. Cooperation with communities and NGOs has created programs of forest restoration and business development, which provide jobs and contribute to sustainable economic development.
Inner Mongolia as host of the meeting shared experience in decade-long efforts in ecological restoration.
Mr. Wang Zhaosheng, Director-General, Forestry and Grassland Administration
of Inner Mongolia, China, giving a keynote speech (Zhang Hongliang/photo)
Mr. Ma Xiaojun, Deputy Director General of Forestry and Grassland
Administration of Chifeng Municipality, giving a keynote speech (Zhang Hongliang/photo)
The meeting was concluded with the Action Plan for Greater Central Asia Forestry Cooperation Mechanism (2023-2025) adopted, with priorities set forth as follows:
· Vegetation restoration in arid and semi-arid areas,
· Sand-based industry development in the areas affected by desertification, such as agroforestry, pasture and ecotourism, etc.,
· Transboundary cooperation on forest/ grasslands fire prevention and control,
· Conservation and utilization of forest/grasslands genetic resources,
· Promoting capacity building of forestry/grasslands professionals,
· Promoting forestry/grassland scientific research cooperation and exchange,
· Improving the livelihood of the communities in extremely decertified areas by transforming the areas into pastures dotted by clusters of shrubs.
APFNet will continually support regional cooperation with its four implementation tools of policy dialogues, capacity building, demonstration projects, and information sharing.
The meeting also appreciated the offer of Mongolia to host the fourth meeting and decided so.
The representatives discussing future cooperation
priorities and approaches (Zhang Zhigang and Zhaoke/photo)
The meeting featured a series of project site visits before and after the indoor session. Representatives went to a larch plantation site for seed cultivation and timber harvesting, an understory mushroom production base, a Larch plantation site for large-diameter timber cultivation, and the program sites of desertification control, where representatives planted memorial trees.  
Representatives of Tajikistan planting trees in Wengniute
Banner, Chifeng City, Inner Mongolia (Du Huan/photo)