Forestry policies, institutions and programmes
There is strong political will to support afforestation and other forestry activities. The main forestry objective is to preserve existing natural forests and to establish new plantations, including multipurpose trees such as chestnut, stone pine, pistachio, carob, walnut, almond, roginia, acacia, eucalyptus and others. A comprehensive draft forest policy was prepared in the early 1960s and revised several times since, but it has not been officially endorsed by the government.
The main institution responsible for forest management, protection and exploitation in Syria is the Forestry and Afforestation Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR), with a staff of over 3 000. Headed by a Director, who reports to the Minister, the directorate consists of four divisions: Utilization (public and private forests), Protection (fire control, legislation, forest guards, natural reserves, extension), Silviculture (management) and Production (nurseries, afforestation). In addition, the Department of Forest Research has recently been created to work towards the development and improvement of forests.
In each province there are Forestry and Afforestation Services, whose service chiefs report to the central forestry directorate through the Provincial Directors of Agriculture.
A High Commission for Afforestation, founded by presidential decree in 1977 and attached to the Prime Minister, has the specific mandate to promote plantation, both of forests and fruit trees, with the ultimate aim of covering around 15 percent of the country. Its annual programme is prepared in cooperation with the Forestry and Afforestation Directorate.
The following are other institutions directly or indirectly involved in forestry matters.
- The Green Belt project is carrying out afforestation activities along a belt more than 1 000 km long and 10 to 20 km wide, where rainfall ranges from 150 to 250 mm. It has significantly contributed to increasing the forest and fruit tree cover.
- The Extension Department of MAAR deals with extension activities related to the forestry sector, in close cooperation and coordination with the Forestry and Afforestation Directorate.
- The MAAR Training and Qualification Department is responsible for the organization of training courses related not only to agriculture and animal husbandry, but also to forestry activities.
- The MAAR Range Department is responsible for fodder shrub production and plantation in all steppe areas. The department promotes sustainable use of natural resources in these areas, especially by preventing overgrazing through the creation of protected areas in the most endangered zones.
The promotion of afforestation is supported by the government also through Tree Planting Day, which is celebrated every last Thursday of the year and has become an important national day. Festivals are held and inhabitants plant trees, together with popular and governmental organizations.
The main legal instruments of the existing forestry legislation are:
- the Forestry Law of June 1994;
- an Instruction of October 1994 related to the right to the use of forest products of the people living within the State forests and neighbouring areas up to a distance of 5 km;
- instruction of March 1995 related to licences for grazing in forest land;
- Decree of February 1996 related to private forestry exploitation.
The Forestry and Afforestation Directorate is also deeply involved in the prevention and control of forest fires.Three fire control centres have been established with specialized and well-trained permanent teams and modern fire control equipment and communication systems. The department has created fire breaks reaching 2 900 km as well as an efficient network of forest roads (2 400 km).
The Government of Syria has increasingly recognized the importance of conserving its nationally and globally significant biodiversity. It has ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention and the protocol concerning Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas. In 1996, the government established a National Unit for Biodiversity within the Ministry of State for Environment, which has adopted responsibility for protected areas. Though not adequately equipped with staff and facilities, the Biodiversity Unit has successfully supervised the formulation of the first Country Study on Biological Diversity in Syria.
Last updated: 2002