Renewable energy reduces tree cutting, saves forests and improves rural livelihoods. These and other findings were revealed by a pilot initiative which tested the use of firewood alternatives and energy efficiency measures in the villages located in a buffer zone of Machakhela National Park.
The initiative was undertaken in 2016-2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia and the Agency of Protected Areas, with assistance from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The results of this pilot project were released in Batumi, on November 9, 2017, to representatives of the Ajara Autonomous Republic Government, civil society and international organizations.
Nino Antadze, Environment and Energy Team Leader at UNDP in Georgia, Giorgi Chkheidze, Deputy Chair of the Agency of Protected Areas, and Avtandil Meskhidze, Minister of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic, addressed the participants of the meeting, underlining the importance of renewable energy for preserving Georgia’s environment and promoting sustainable economy.
This was followed by the report of the pilot project in Machakhela presented by Irakli Goradze, UNDP Project Manager, and Liana Garibashvili, technical expert from the Energy Efficiency Centre of Georgia.
The pilot project in Machakhela involved three villages located in a buffer zone of the National Park – Kedkedi and upper and lower Chkhutuneti. Firewood alternatives and renewable energy sources – biomass, energy-efficient stoves and solar panels – were provided to 16 households and a public school.
In addition, residents of the target villages received information about energy effective ways of heating and solar water heaters.
The piloting showed that renewable energy proves effective as a substitute for firewood, still used for heating by most of rural households in Georgia. In the target villages only, tree cutting will be reduced by 100 cubic meters this winter. Furthermore, more households have decided to shift to biomass energy and have purchased 142 tonnes of nut shell from local producers, which has a prospect of reducing tree cutting by 500 cubic meters next year.
Piloting of the firewood alternatives is part of a wider programme aiming to promote protected areas in Ajara and assist conservation of the unique Colchis forests. With over USD 1.3 million in GEF funding, the initiative is implemented by UNDP in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia and Agency of Protected Areas.