Community-based management of walnut forests and pasture in Southern Kyrgyzstan
Title: Biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction through community-based management of walnut forests and pastures in southern Kyrgyzstan
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry of the Kyrgyz Republic; Ministry of Agriculture and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic
Overall term: 2014 to 2018
Despite their limited extent, the woodlands of Kyrgyzstan form an important hotspot of biological diversity. Many domesticated varieties of fruit and nut trees originate in the walnut and wild fruit forests in the south of the country. Preserving these wild species has global significance. The forests also help regulate the water cycle in downstream areas, and the livelihoods of local people are highly dependent on the natural resources, in particular on the use of nuts, pasture and timber.
With an accelerating rate of glacier melt, Kyrgyzstan is now one of the countries of the world most severely affected by global climate change. The existing system of forest and pasture management is not adapted to the changes and it is expected to exacerbate soil erosion, landslides and the ongoing deterioration of pasture and forest resources.
The relevant state structures have not yet succeeded in resolving conflicts over land use or in developing innovative forms of land management involving the participation of local people. Nor are the local communities in a position to introduce sustainable management models which conserve biodiversity, adapt to climate change and increase local incomes.
Selected communities in southern Kyrgyzstan are using sustainable models of forest and pasture management in order to promote the conservation of biodiversity, support adaptation to climate change and increase local incomes.
The work of the project focuses on three main areas.
We support state agencies and local communities (forest offices, pasture committees, local self-government, etc.) in developing a joint management plan for natural resources. Forest and pasture users are included in this process. Besides encouraging the introduction of national forestry reforms, this management plan will help establish a balance between the roles and responsibilities of different actors involved in forest and land management. Sustainable pasture management will concentrate on the protection of existing biodiversity, while forests will be managed in accordance with the principles of forestation, preservation and expansion. The pursuit of sustainable management as set out in management plans will improve the condition of the forests and the pastures.
In a number of areas the project is planting forests which, with a mixture of walnut and fruit trees, are better adapted to climate change. Six forest offices receive the necessary assistance for planting young trees. Seedlings from the natural gene-pool of native species are to be grown in nurseries and then planted on currently deforested land. In addition, forestry offices have been equipped with computers, fire-fighting equipment and fencing materials. For fencing and afforestation activities, they contract local forest user groups.
The findings from agroforestry research as well as innovations from earlier projects provide an important basis for the work of the project. As the local people gain new, more sustainable options for using the forest resource, the forests are restored and the number of trees felled for fuel reduced. New approaches to reforestation and alternative methods of income generation are being introduced and encouraged on a wide scale. For instance, we are assisting farmers’ cooperatives by providing specialised training on water and soil conservation technologies, constructing greenhouses and improving the quality of livestock. The project also involves an information campaign on energy efficient technologies, the aim of which is to reduce unnecessary tree felling. As part of this campaign, local people learn about home insulation technologies.
Since September 2015, the project activities have been implemented by UNIQUE Company.
In collaboration with the leskhozes and pasture committees, we have started testing a new pasture management model. The model is the result of an intensive discussion process, facilitated by our experts, involving the staff of the forest offices, and representatives of the pasture committees and the district and village administrations. The responsibility for monitoring pastures remains with the forest offices, while annual pasture usage rights are transferred to the users’ committees.
As a result of the courses on water and soil conservation technologies, local farmers have built rainwater harvesting reservoirs and installed a drip irrigation system. Not only have they benefited from learning-by-doing, but their work helps to build a sense of ownership.
Five hundred farmers have completed training in livestock raising and crop production. Some of these have formed breeding groups to improve the quality of their livestock. As winners of a business plan competition, ten user groups received solar dryers with which to process forest products. They can now sell quality dried fruits at a higher price.
Since February 2015, thanks to the monthly information tours in the project areas, local community members have improved their knowledge of sustainable pasture and forest management techniques.