Protecting forests and using them sustainably: This is what the International Day of Forests draws attention to – the SUFACHAIN project shows, how this can be done in Central Asia

Gathering wild fruits and nuts from forests is widespread around the world. However, Central Asia’s forests are overexploited in the process. The SUFACHAIN project, which is part of the BMBF’s CLIENT II program, aims to contribute to the sustainable management of commercial forests.

Agroforestry in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

Overuse of forests, high water consumption and also soil overuse (degradation) are major challenges for natural forests in large parts of Central Asia. However, sustainable action does not only consist of reforestation, but can also be implemented through targeted agroforestry. This combines agricultural and forestry systems. Ideally, such mixed systems can unleash great synergies that not only have a positive impact on carbon sequestration, but additionally positively influence water and nutrient budgets, biodiversity, crop yields and humus formation.

Agroforestry systems that integrate nut and fruit trees into agricultural production offer great potential in Central Asia for the sustainable and efficient production of high-quality food. At the same time, this can reduce overexploitation and alleviate drought caused by climate change.

Researchers from project SUFACHAIN help to use walnut forests more sustainably and efficiently

The fruits of the true walnut (Juglans regia L.) are among the highest value agroforestry products in Central Asia. Their multiple utilization possibilities will be analyzed by the SUFACHAIN project and integrated into local land and forest use. To this end, products and technologies will be developed that contribute to sustainable resource use and increased local value creation. For example, supposed waste products, such as walnut shells or apricot kernels, can be reused in the international cosmetics industry to replace microplastic beads in skin cosmetics, such as scrubs.

To develop efficient value chains and appropriate marketing for agroforestry systems, the researchers in SUAFCHAIN want to introduce product certifications and further ecological standards, as well as develop attractive market niches for agroforestry products.

With a transdisciplinary approach and in close cooperation with Central Asian stakeholders, the project, led by Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, is investigating both technological issues for better utilization, for example of waste products, as well as ecological and socio-economic issues. In this way, the project contributes to sustainable management of walnut forests and other natural resources in Central Asia, while improving income and business opportunities for the local population and the region’s resilience to drought as a result of climate change. Together with the collaborative partners and stakeholders from Central Asia, the project was officially launched with a kick-off conference in Bishkek in mid-March 2023.

The BMBF is funding the SUFACHAIN project in the CLIENT II funding measure from 2022 to 2025 with around 1.4 million euros.