Advancing Forest Carbon Projects Spanning 600,000 Hectares in Kyrgyzstan

(From the left) Dr. Park Chongho, Mr. Stefaan Decraene, HE Mr. Melis Turgunbaev

December 1, 2023 – the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) made a resounding announcement during the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Climate Change Convention in Dubai. Led by Dr. Park Chongho, AFoCO revealed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Kyrgyzstan and the global financial institution, Rabobank of the Netherlands, for the “Collaborative Carbon Offset Project through Agroforestry in Kyrgyzstan.”

The signing ceremony, held at the Microsoft Pavilion of COP28, witnessed the presence of key figures including Dr. Park Chongho – Executive Director of AFoCO, Mr. Melis Turgunbaev – the Minister of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic, and Stefaan Decraene, Chair Managing Board of Rabobank, among other dignitaries. Notably, this momentous MOU marks AFoCO’s inaugural private funding endeavor in Kyrgyzstan, echoing the success established by similar ventures such as those backed by Bill Gates through Microsoft.

Dr. Park Chongho remarked, “Through this MOU, AFoCO will launch agroforestry carbon projects across northern and southern regions of Kyrgyzstan starting in 2024. The initiative’s primary objective is to redistribute 80% of carbon credit sales proceeds to local residents vulnerable to climate change risks, thereby fostering regional income growth and improving inhabitants’ quality of life.”

HE Minister Melis Turgunbaev emphasized the significance of this project in targeting the restoration of 600,000 hectares of forests, aiming to significantly contribute to Kyrgyzstan’s climate objectives and striving for carbon neutrality. He also expressed anticipation for deeper cooperation in the future.

Mr. Stefaan Decraene, Chair Managing Board of Rabobank, expressed hopes for increased collaboration among Rabobank, AFoCO, and the Kyrgyzstan government, particularly in agroforestry-based carbon offset initiatives, carbon financing, project expansions, and capacity strengthening. He further highlighted aspirations for extending such projects to other AFoCO member countries like Laos, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.

AFoCO, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to promoting climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management across Asia, currently operates 35 cooperation projects among its 16 member countries, encompassing nations such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia.

Kyrgyzstan, known for its natural environment and agricultural potential, presents a conducive setting for integrating agriculture and forestry through agroforestry practices, facilitating sustainable agricultural and forest management. The MOU aims to restore 600,000 hectares of deteriorated forests in Kyrgyzstan, launching a five-year, $20 million carbon initiative directed at small-scale farmers from 2023 to 2027. This initiative involves agroforestry practices that sequester carbon in biomass, allowing farmers to access the burgeoning carbon emission market while generating new income sources.

In line with AFoCO’s commitment to advancing forest restoration, climate-resilient community solutions, digital technology innovations, and collaborative efforts with local communities, the organization has unveiled its new Strategic Plan (2024-2030) and Climate Action Plan (2025-2034). The MOU is anticipated to mark a significant milestone in AFoCO’s pursuit of new horizons.

Submitted by YoungJu HAN, Program Officer

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