The government of Pakistan with the help of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a project to restore, improve and manage the chilgoza pine (pine nuts) forests in the country.
The Ministry of Climate Change in collaboration with FAO, provincial forest departments and other stakeholders will contribute to enhance resilience and improve environment and livelihoods in Pakistan over the next 4 years through its project "Reversing Deforestation and Forest Degradation in High Conservation Value Chilgoza Pine in Pakistan. Pakistan is the 5th top global producers of pine nuts with having 15% share in global pine nuts production and having potential to become leading pine nuts producer if appropriate steps are being taken by the government and the farmers, speakers while addressing the workshop said. They said that at present China is leading producer of pine nuts followed by Russia, North Korea and Afghanistan.
Representatives from the federal and provincial governments, forest departments and local and international development partners participated in the workshop. This project will cover chilgoza forests in Balochistan, FATA, KP and Gilgit-Baltistan. Global Environment Facility (GEF) which is the largest public donor for projects aimed at improving the global environment will provide financial support for the project.
The participants were informed that the chilgoza ecosystem in Pakistan is subjected to negative impacts of climate change. Chilgoza pine is an important member of the unique ecosystem of the dry temperate ecological zone and has the potential to contribute billions of rupees to the economy by providing non-timber forest products, providing fuel wood and regulating water. It is mainly produced in Suleiman Mountain Range; an extension of the Hindu Kush and lies at the junction of three provincial borders of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. The Range contains the world's largest pure stand of Chilgoza (pinus gerardiana) forests is spaced over squire 260km. These forests play an important role, providing both ecological and environmental services besides being a credible source of income to local communities.
Due to increase in population coupled with lack of alternate livelihood opportunities, chilgoza forests are under constant pressure for timber. Compared to poor quality timber for which Chilgoza trees are harvested, the same trees produce good quality nuts that have market, both national and international. Since local people are not aware of even reasonable good marketing practices, they are mostly at the mercy of middlemen. And the result is not difficult to imagine: local people do not get even a fraction of what they should. However, if (a) they adopt proper collection, roasting, sorting, and packing practices; and (b) they get a direct access to national and later, to international market, they can increase their income at least 4-fold.
Mina Dowlatchahi, FAO Representative in Pakistan, said: "Forest degradation has implications for climate, environment vulnerability, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods. This project will work closely with local communities, government departments and institutions to restore the degraded chilgoza forests. It will also help promote value chain development for generating sustainable income for local communities from the chilgoza pine products."
Through this project FAO and its partners aim to strengthen the regulatory governance and policy environment for integrated and sustainable management of chilgoza forests, conserving and restoring chilgoza forest landscape, building capacity of local institutions and other stakeholders and developing a value chain which would help improve resilience of the communities and provide them with sustainable means of securing livelihoods.
Syed Mehmood Nasir, Inspector General Forests Ministry of Climate Change, said: "Together we need to overcome the challenges in developing the chilgoza value chain. This workshop will help promote a common understanding of the objectives and planned activities as well as the role and responsibilities of all project partners which require them to work together for improved forest governance and sustainable productivity."