The Executive Board of the World Bank today approved a $142 million preferential loan for Uzbekistan. The funding will support a project aimed at increasing the area under sustainable landscape management, restoring degraded forest areas in different regions of the country and promoting Uzbekistan’s cooperation with other Central Asian countries in cross-border landscape restoration. This project is part of the Resilient Landscapes in Central Asia (RESILAND CA+) program, which aims to increase resilience to further desertification, landscape degradation and climate change.
To implement the project, the International Development Association (IDA), part of the World Bank Group, will provide the government of Uzbekistan with concessional financing at a low interest rate with a repayment period of 30 years, including a five-year payment period.
The project will also benefit from financial support provided by Trust Funds – Korea – World Bank Partnership Facility (US$3 million) and Global Partnership for Sustainable and Resilient Landscapes (US$8 million).
Uzbekistan has sparse forest cover, with an estimated 3.68 million hectares of forested land, accounting for 8.6 percent of the land area. Over the past 30 years, forest cover and other wooded land has been degraded due to uncontrolled animal husbandry, increasing demand for industrial wood and firewood due to limited energy sources in rural areas, and expansion of irrigated agriculture into forests. Other worsening factors included changing climatic conditions, which could be associated with increased occurrences of wildfires and pest and disease outbreaks.
The project approved today will contribute to the objectives of the new country partnership framework for 2022-2026, which aims to support the government of Uzbekistan in implementing the next phase of reforms in the transition to an inclusive and sustainable market economy. One of its priority areas is promoting environmental sustainability in the context of the significant burden of climate change.
“The new World Bank-funded project will help implement the concept for developing the Uzbek forest system by 2030 adopted by the government in October 2020,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan. “Through tree-based landscape restoration interventions in the areas of degraded land, the project will contribute to increased resilience of landscapes, food systems, people and infrastructure, creation of jobs based on natural resource management and small and medium-sized enterprises, and investments in nature – based tourism and protected areas.”
The State Committee of Forestry of Uzbekistan will implement the project, including some of the activities mentioned below:
Supporting the development of the first National Forest Inventory of Uzbekistan as well as the development of an ICT platform for the State Forestry Committee to transform it into a modern and efficient organization.
Implement tree-based interventions (agroforestry, plantations, fruit trees, silvopastoral systems) in landscapes to restore degraded land in different regions with productive activities and provide short-term jobs to local communities through the implementation of a green wager program.
Provide financial and business training services to local farmers to develop small and medium-sized businesses based on natural resource management.
Promotion of sustainable management of protected areas and forest reserves as well as sustainable tourism close to nature. In order to develop nature-based tourism in Uzbekistan, the project will fund the construction of basic infrastructure, visitor centers, tourist and administrative facilities, camping, picnic and other recreational activities, hiking trail systems, etc. in the protected areas and forest reserves.
The World Bank’s country program in Uzbekistan is the largest in the Europe and Central Asia region after Turkey. It consists of 29 projects with net commitments totaling approximately US$5.4 billion. They provide support in critical areas such as macroeconomic reforms and modernization of agriculture, water management, water and sanitation, energy, transport, health, education, social protection, urban and rural infrastructure, national innovation, tax administration and statistics, and will also help improve the health, mitigate the social and economic impact of the pandemic.