Community-based management of walnut forests and pasture in South of Kyrgyzstan

Project description

Title: Biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction through community-based management of walnut forests and pastures
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Kyrgyzstan
Lead executing agency: State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry of the Kyrgyz Republic
Overall term: 2018 to 2020

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Context

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.

Kyrgyzstan is 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 struggle with resolving conflicts related to land use and involving local communities in decision-making processes. Local communities themselves are also in no position to practice sustainable natural resource management models for conservation of biodiversity, adaptation to climate change and increasing local incomes.

Objective

The project has incorporated a sustainable natural resource manage¬ment model into the economic practices of Kyrgyzstan’s woodland-dependent communities in close collaboration with national and local partners.

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Approach

The project has been implemented in Bazar-Korgon, a district of the Jalal-Abad region. 13,000 hectares are covered by natural walnut forests – the largest of their kind in the world. 

Focused on supporting state agencies and local communities, the project has established and is further developing a joint management model for natural resources. In addition to piloting national forestry reform, joint management at the local level will help establish a balance between the roles and responsibilities of the different actors involved in land management. 

To institutionalise best practices, the project supports forest enterprises, forest users and local organisations in organisational develop¬ment processes which are aimed to establish exchange and integrate specific interests of women. Six local forest enterprises have received assistance in planting a mixture of selected, native walnut and fruit trees that are supposed to be well-adapted to climate change. 

If local people have other, more sustainable options for the use of forest resources, walnut forests can recover. Hence, the project has introduced alternative methods of income generation on a broader scale. For instance, the development of quality and product standards for non-timber forest products to improve export possibilities. 

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Results

A new pasture management model has been introduced with the participation of local forest enterprises and pasture committees. Integrated management plans for natural resources that take into consideration factors such as tourism and value chains have been developed with the key stakeholders of three pilot forest enterprises. 400 forest and pasture users and forest enterprise staff worked in cooperation. 

Tree nurseries were supported in the production of high-quality and climate-resilient seedlings of walnut and fruit trees. These seedlings have then been used to afforest fenced plots and rejuvenate the woodlands. 

Ten user groups have won a business plan competition and have received solar dryers for drying and processing forest products. It enables them to sell quality dry fruits, mushrooms and medicinal herbs at higher prices. Additionally, two local products of forest-derived fruit candy and walnut oil have branded themselves. 

Since February 2015, thanks to quarterly information tours in the project areas, local community-members have improved their knowledge of sustainable pasture and forest management techniques. In the course of raising awareness about the uniqueness of southern Kyrgyzstan’s woodlands, our project supported partners in initiating the “Walnut Festival”, a popular event attracting hundreds of people annually.

The new approaches of environmental educational activities have been introduced and the developed manual for teachers is complementary to the national curriculum. 

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