“Green Country” – how realistic is Zelensky’s new initiative?

The other day Volodymyr Zelensky announced the Green Country project. Under this project, forest areas will be increased by 1 million hectares over the next 10 years. To do this, it is planned to plant 1 billion trees in the first 3 years.

But how realistic is this plan? We asked experts.

Vice President of the Forestry Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Professor of Ecological Economics, National Forestry University of Ukraine Ihor Soloviy told us about the current state of afforestation and reforestation in Ukraine. According to him, now the pace of planting and reforestation is far from what is needed to implement the ambitious plan of Zelensky.

“In 2020, 39.2 thousand hectares of forests were regenerated in Ukraine, and only 2.1 thousand hectares of new forests were created. To plant 1 million hectares in three years, it is necessary to increase forest planting by 150 times. The current pace is due to the lack of land for afforestation, which is distributed, privatized, and reluctantly transferred for afforestation by private or municipal owners. Forestries are also not motivated to perform such work to a large extent. To implement the president’s proposal, it is necessary to provide significant funding for selecting areas for afforestation, compensation to owners, planting, and care for the plantings”.

The State Agency of Forest Resources of Ukraine, in its response, told us that it supports Zelensky’s idea.

“Given that the State Forest Agency manages 73% of Ukraine’s forests, we are considering the appropriate number of trees (seedlings) that our companies will be able to plant over the next three years (autumn 2021 – spring 2024) – about 730 million pieces. For this purpose, it is necessary to involve all forest users of Ukraine – both state and communal forms of ownership. To ensure the planting of the required number of trees in the state forestry enterprises of the State Forest Agency, the necessary production base should be additionally created – nurseries, greenhouses, and hotbeds”.

The agency’s position also states that for the optimal level of forest cover in Ukraine (20%), it is necessary to create more than 2 million hectares of new forests. That is twice as much as the Green Country project offers.

Zelensky’s new initiative really has a noble goal. However, it is too early to talk about positive changes, as there are too many questions. Is there land for planting? How to encourage landowners to plant? How well thought out is this initiative, and is there a strategy for its implementation?