The FOPER (Forest Policy, Economics, Education and Research) network began life in 2003, when EFI and a consortium of forestry faculties and research institutes proposed an innovative capacity building programme in the Western Balkan region.

This area is known for its rich natural forests, but despite its long history of forest management, it lacked the capacity to tackle forestry issues outside the forest - in political agendas, market economics and civil society. While traditional forest science disciplines like silviculture or forest technology were well understood, the aspects of forest policy and economics were not well developed.

The collapse of Yugoslavia and the intensity of the wars during the 1990s had divided researchers, teachers, students, forest administration, universities and research institutes in what had previously been a strongly interconnected region. The forestry sector (both state and private organisations), was faced with the challenge of adjusting to the new democratic society, and a market economy. These challenges were complicated by the reforms needed to meet the legal requirements of the EU accession process.

FOPER began to reconnect and rebuild a regional network, focused on research and education in forest policy and forest economics. It had two phases: FOPER I (2004-2009) and FOPER II (2009-2013), both designed to increase higher education capacity and implement policy-relevant research to place forestry on the political agenda.

The project designed and implemented an international masters' programme and professional training in Forest Policy and Economics, increased training for university teachers and regional researchers as well as professional training. It also created six Collaborative Regional Research Teams, and developed a Doctoral College to support FOPER MSc students working on doctoral degrees.

45 students have passed through the MSc programme, and FOPER was  the largest and most vibrant regional research network in the Western Balkan countries.

Project related EFI publication: Tomi Tuomasjukka (editor). 2010. Forest Policy and Economics in Support of Good Governance. Proceedings 58, European Forest Institute.

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