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The case of Kyrgyzstan shows clearly that there are connections between forests and poverty reduction. Although the total area of forests is relatively small, people living in and around forests make considerable use of a variety of forest products for their livelihoods. There is evidence to show that income form forest products can, in some cases, make a positive contribution to income generation and poverty reduction, but only if the institutional arrangements governing access to the products are seriously reformed.

Many countries in West and Central Asia have much in common with Kyrgyzstan, both in terms of the extent of forest cover and the ways in which people use the forests. They also share some institutional features, including a strong emphasis on state ownership of forests and management by strong forest agencies.

Some general lessons can be drawn from the situation in Kyrgyzstan in general and the Kyrgyz experiment with CFM in particular and we believe that many of these will be applicable to other countries in the region. At least they are key themes, or focus points.

In order to move more directly towards the use of forests to contribute to poverty reduction, countries in the region will need to grapple with a variety of issues and to face a number of gaps in knowledge.

At the national level there is need for analysis of forest policy, both on paper and its implementation in the field, focusing on its implications to poverty reduction.

Once such a national level analysis has been carried out, this information could be used to develop policy changes specifically targeted to the benefit of poor people ("the poorest of poor rural communities"). One way this could be done is by exploring the contribution of forest services to national poverty reduction strategies.

The potential for new or changed policies needs to be checked against probable consequences or scenarios. How are particular changes expected to affect poor people (decreased versus increased access, security, participation in decision-making etc.)? What can help the poor? What risks locking them in poverty (potential poverty traps)?

A further step might be the exchange of relevant experience between neighbouring countries, possibly at occasions such as sub-regional meetings. Meetings held in the process of the elaboration of the Forestry Outlook Study for West and Central Asia might provide such an opportunity.

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