The Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forest Ecoregion is listed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a Global 200 Ecoregions. It represents important biodiversity and landscape values that provide multiple environmental, social and economic benefits to the Iranian people. The region is also of deep cultural significance and still exhibits many traditional ways of life among local communities. The forests cover an area of approximately 1.8 million hectares in Northern Iran. A total of 7.3 million people live in the Caspian Hyrcanian Landscape, has a population density of 126 people per km2, which is 2.7 times greater than for the country as a whole.
The Project Document was co-signed by Head of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Organization (FRWO) and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Iran on 5 May 2013 and ended in June 2019. Governmental and non-governmental project stakeholders included Forest, Range Land & Watershed Management Organisation (FRWO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Energy, Handicrafts, Ecotourism, and Cultural Heritage Organization, academia, Islamic councils of villages, local community, and NGOs.
Project objectives were “to put in place a collaborative governance system and know-how for managing a mosaic of land uses in the Caspian Hyrcanian Forest that provides habitat integrity and helps maintain landscape level ecosystem functions and resilience”.
The project, therefore aimed to:
- Conserve biodiversity as well as integrity and sustainability of ecosystem services in key landscapes; and
- Introduce a novel multiple-use forest managements system.
Key Achievements to date:
- Formation and registration of 5 cooperatives in four pilot sites with 277 people.
- Involving local communities in conflict resolution, local festivals, support for waste management schemes in villages, training for forest rangers.
- Creating local funds (7 funds/179 people).
- Formation and empowerment of livelihoods groups (100 people).
- Eco tourism development: (293 people)
- opening 3 eco-lodges in Dohezar- Sehezar pilot site
- opening 4 eco- lodges in Fariroud-Zilakiroud pilot site
- opening 2 eco-lodges in Baliran pilot site
- opening 1 eco-lodge in Chelchai pilot site
- Development of handicrafts production (140 people).
- Wood processing (8 people)
- Cultivating medicinal plants and producing secondary products:
- Establishment of model gardens (2 HA /130 people)
- Cultivation of Saffron, Borage, etc in 9 villages (130 people)
- IPM Rice cultivation with 9 households at 6.1 HA (30 people)
- The total income of local communities from alternative livelihoods: $85,700.
Natural and Environmental Resources Activities
- Conflict resolution and facilitation for afforestation in Chelchai pilot site (300 HA).
- Forest rehabilitation and protection in the Fariroud-Zilakiroud pilot site (316HA).
- Participatory afforestation in Gilan and Mazandaran provinces (10HA).
- Waste Management in four pilot sites (12 villages).
- Red deer protection in Baliran pilot site (15,000HA).
- Provide a list of specific biodiversity areas in Hyrcanian forests (400,000HA).
- Evacuation herding unites protection in the Fariroud-Zilakiroud pilot site (350 herding unites).
- Reduction of herding units in the Fariroud-Zilakiroud pilot site (270 herding unites).
Human resource achievements:
- Empowering and Capacity Building for Local Communities and NGOs.
- Increasing public awareness about ecosystem services and biodiversity values in Hyrcanian Forests.
- Conducting advisory and educational workshops in the areas of integrated management planning, biodiversity, land use zoning and mapping, multipurpose community forestry.
- Conducting advisory workshops with local communities and FRWO'S experts to consolidate and agree on the rights, responsibilities and benefits of community-based forestry in projects selected pilot sites.
- Preparation and approval of the Green Development Strategy in Hyrcanian forests.
- Preparation and approval of multi-purpose community-based forest management guidelines.
- Preparation and approval of management in special areas of biodiversity guideline.
- Preparation and approval of biodiversity guideline for use in forestry plans
- Drafting eco-tourism guideline.
- Preparation and approval of integrated management plans for all project pilot sites.
- Preparation of a multi-purpose community forestry plan in Yuj village.
- Preparation of Baliran forest park.
- Preparation of Mooshbijar forest park.
- Preparation of Khersabin eco-camp.
- Preparation of Shahrbijar nursery.