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Turkish, French sustainable forestry cooperation caps with eco-tour



A cooperation project between Turkish and French forest management agencies has come to an end with experts and facilitators paying a visit to an eco-tourism route in Istanbul to highlight the results of decadelong joint efforts.

Officials from the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry (OGM), the French National Office of Forests (ONF) and its international arm ONFI, and project financier French Development Agency (AFD) met Wednesday at Büyükada, the largest of Istanbul’s Prince Islands, where an eco-tourism route was launched in 2020 as part of the project.

Speaking to the press at the island’s scenic fire tower, Özgür Balcı, the head of the OGM’s Ecosystem Services Department, stated that forest management and forestry, previously perceived as solely concerned with timber stock, have transformed in the past 30 years as forests are seen as valuable socio-cultural and economic resources.

The OGM founded the Ecosystem Services Department in 2011 and the French support aided the agency to develop services in biodiversity, ecosystems and eco-tourism, Balcı said.

Balcı stated that 52 eco-tourism routes have been launched so far in line with the experience earned in the project, and the number of routes will reach 110 by 2025. These routes, which leave nothing but footprints behind and serve as alternatives for mass tourism visitors, provide important sources of income and economic opportunities for forest villagers and other locals, he added.

The Büyükada route was the first application in the joint project with the AFD, Balcı said, adding that this experience later spread across Turkey with even better examples and using the OGM’s own budget.


A route in southern Turkey’s Adana province provided the means for a rather remote town of 20,000 people to host 120,000 visitors, Balcı said, adding that the OGM will continue such projects that are beneficial for maintaining rural population and providing local employment opportunities.

“We estimate that the direct annual contribution of tourism activities in forest areas to the national economy is TL 250 million ($16.97 million). It is hard to measure its economic input in terms of effects, but it is predictable; we think that these actions alone would cause tourism mobility of TL 1 billion,” Balcı told Ihlas News Agency (IHA).

Since the project began in 2012, the AFD provided the OGM and the Turkish Ministry of Treasury and Finance with 600 million euros ($663 million) in public loans and 1.2 million euros in technical grants for the implementation of sustainable forest management policies and applications.

The total amount of project financing by the AFD in Turkey since its launch in the country in 2004 has reached $4 billion, AFD Turkey Director Tanguy Denieul said, noting that the project with the OGM was the biggest of the AFD’s sustainable forest management projects in the world.

Denieul touched upon the various effects of the project from eco-tourism to avalanche prevention, restoration of an abandoned mine and quarry sites to the reforestation of fire-hit regions. The project also covered issues of biological control of pests, fire prevention and monitoring, forest genealogy and studies on strategies to adapt to climate change.

“Within the scope of this strong cooperation that provided mutual benefits for both countries, nearly 100 experts from both public and private sectors were mobilized between 2019 and 2022 and more than 30 exchange visits were held,” Denieul said.

ONFI’s Olivier van den Bossche stated that Turkey and France share many similarities in terms of forests, including the country’s total forest-covered regions. “We will continue efforts along with actors and institutions in Turkey to make the country’s forests more adaptive and resilient in the face of climate change,” he said.


Following the meeting, Turkish and French experts took the Büyükada route, which traverses through the island’s southern part covered with pine forests. The route includes historic sites such as Aya Yorgi (St. George) Monastery and Church and Greek Orthodox Orphanage, along with a pheasant breeding station. Visitors can either take the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) paved road, which is also known as the route for the island’s “Grand Tour” for sightseeing, or the 4.5-kilometer unpaved hiking path.

During the course of the project, Turkey’s forest cover increased to 30% from 27% between 2012 and 2019.

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Source: Daily Sabah

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