The 2nd NWF Network transnational meeting was held in Slovenia on 23-24 May 2017. The project partners exchanged experiences from the area of forestry activities in each country, evaluated the current state of implementation of the project activities, and thanks to the host organization - CPI Slovenia - had the opportunity to visit examples of good practice in the area.
Forestry in Slovakia and the current state of use of non-wood products:
Forests are an inseparable part of the image of Slovakia. Whether it's a river or mountain range, it's almost always a forest or at least a grove in the horizon. Only some people realize that the water does not flow from the faucet, but most often it is collected somewhere in the woods; that the individual trees and the forests are silencing the noise; reducing the amount of dust in our surroundings and being the refuge of various species of plants and animals.
The Slovak Republic with its forest cover of 40.6% is among the countries of Europe with the highest share of forests, compared to the size of the state. In Europe, only Scandinavia countries like Finland (76.7%) and Sweden (68.6%), and Austria (47.0%) in Central Europe are higher in the share of forests. Compared to the neighbouring states, the peculiarity of Slovak forests is that on a relatively small area there are very varied natural conditions and different types of forests, ranging from lowlands to alpine forests, not to say that a wide range of original woods or mountain communities has been preserved here. These forests have an extraordinary significance not only in production factor, but also in the public interest. This is in particular a soil conservation and water management function, which is very important not only for the Slovak Republic but also for the neighbouring European countries.
The forest has many functions that we can generally divide into productive and publicly beneficial.
The production function of the forest is its ability to produce wood, which is the role of forestry. The publicly beneficial function of the forest means the ability of the forest to create and protect fertile land, capture and accumulate clean water, produce oxygen, filter air, absorb dust and radioactivity, disinfect the environment with phytoncides, and lastly, or perhaps mainly - provide our bodies with relaxation and the soul of harmony.
Forestry as one of the sectors of the national economy, whose main objective is the planned and sustainable management of Slovak forests and their development, has compared to some other economies several specificities. Forests are both environment and production means, a renewable natural resource and a source of freely available benefits, a producer of wood and other tradable forest products, respectively services, but also providers of a range of public services that are not economically valued. Today, forests are growing where there was uneconomic other type of land use in the past.
Further development of forestry is now directly dependent on the development of a number of factors of an economic and environmental nature, such as changes in the significance of forest functions, conflicts between the "ecology" and the "economy" of forest management, the evolution of wood prices on world markets, pressures to increase the use of forest biomass for energy purposes, increasing the number of catastrophic situations in forests, and last but not least, climate changes and their impacts on forest ecosystems.
In Slovakia we distinguish three categories of forests:
- Production forests (H),
- Protective forests (O),
- Forests of special designation (U).
Production forests are forests, which are not protective forests, or forests of special designation and whose purpose is the production of wood and other forest products, while ensuring the non-productive functions of forests. This category therefore includes forest stands, whose primary function is wood production. Theoretically, it could also be the production of other products (such as resin, cork, forest undergrowth as cattle feeds, etc.). In Slovakia, however, non-wood products are nowhere much important and the use of many non-wood products is directly prohibited by law. Hunting is also considered to be the use of non-wood products, the commercial interest in this activity and its products is increasing at the moment. In Slovakia, forests with a purely productive function occur only rarely. A further increase in the significance of non-productive functions can be expected in the future.
Non-wood products and associated forestry activities in Slovakia
In addition to the traditional source of income from timber products, it is necessary to implement measures aimed at increasing of employment and income through the diversification of forestry and non-forestry activities, as well as activities carried out in related industries. Key areas are tourism, energy and the environment. The weaknesses are mainly a relatively small proportion of income from non-wood forest products and services, low valorisation and processing of local natural resources and raw materials, undeveloped guidance system for rural based SME and the resulting low utilization rate from the EU Structural Funds to support entrepreneurship and diversification of rural activities. At present, in Slovakia there is no system of market implementation of most non-wood forest products, forest services and non-productive forest functions. In addition to wood and hunting, non-material benefits and products and benefits of the forest production function are currently considered to be synergistic effects of wood-production forest function, or positive externalities of forest production, but are not marketable and they are not taken into account within prices of wood and non-wood forest products. In this area, it is necessary to focus on the identification, quantification and evaluation of non-wood products and benefits of non-productive forest functions and on the global acceptance of non-productive functions as externalities of forestry.
Forest and leisure
We also use forests for leisure activities, but we must not forget that the forest grows long, usually for several human generations. From what the grandfathers plant and fathers care for, can benefit only their children or grandchildren. Our ancestors were dependent on the woods – the forest gave them everything they needed to live, whether it was wood for the construction of the house, wood for heating, litter for cattle, mushroom to soups or raspberry for jam. Therefore our ancestors valued the forest and used it a way that they would always have the benefits from it. Forest can be swiftly swapped for money, but unfortunately it does not work in the opposite direction. And that's a bit of a reason why today, when money is all that matters, the forest is not as valuable - it cannot be rotated as quickly as monetary capital, it cannot be quickly moved from place to place as a production line. Forests have global impacts, but regional to local significance.