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Pastures for the Future: Kyrgyzstan
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Pastures for the Future: Kyrgyzstan
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Hope in a Changing Climate
Formerly nomadic livestock herders in Kyrgyzstan have been rocked by massive changes to their livelihoods in recent times, first adjusting to the centralized Soviet system and now facing a transition to the global market economy. A team of international experts, assisted by the United Nations University, is helping these herders make the transition while maintaining the natural environment.
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Produced by United Nations University.

Find out more about agriculture and development projects in Kyrgyzstan.

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Segment 1

TITLE
United Nations University
TITLE
The Pamir-Alai mountains in Kyrgyzstan and the adjacent Pamir ranges in Tajikistan are global biodiversity hotspots increasingly affected by land degradation.
VOICEOVER
A spring morning in Josholu. Kyzgaldak is baking bread while her husband Jengishbek is herding their animals out for the day to graze in the pastures surrounding the village. Like many other herder villages in the Alai mountain range, Josholu has changed a lot since Kyrgyzstan independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
NEVELINA PACHOVA [Researcher, United Nations University]
During the Soviet time pastures were managed. There was a quite sophisticated system of pasture rotation with improvement of the pastures. This system collapsed with the collapse of the centrally planned economy.
VOICEOVER
Nevelina Pachova is researcher at the United Nations University and an expert on environment and development issues in mountain regions. She has been working for several years with these Central Asian communities. She is part of a team of Kyrgyz, Tajik and international experts and officials on a mission to help these communities preserve their environment during their difficult transition into the global market economy. They have taken Jengishbek and Kyzgaldak’s house in Josholu as a base for their work.
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Project team: Sustainable Land Management in the High Pamir and Pamir-Alai Mountains.
VOICEOVER
They gather valuable information by talking to villagers and local leaders about their animals and pastures, the things that matter most to them. Today the team is exploring the pastures around the village. With the help of Professor Orunbek Kolanov, Dean of the Biology Faculty of Osh University, the team is getting organized on the appropriate methods to carry out their research and is already finding out what is the current state of the land. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, livestock has been increasing in Kyrgyzstan.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV [Dean, Biology Faculty, Osh University]
Comparing the data of the last 10 years, we see a significant increase in the quantity of livestock.
VOICEOVER
Together with this increase, the current system of land-use control over where livestock graze is only loosely regulated.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
The people mainly take their animals to graze in the pastures close to the village. That is why the degradation can be seen mostly there, on nearby pastures.
VOICEOVER
In the village, the herders are getting ready to move to the summer pastures by making new felt covers for the temporary dwellings they will be using there. It’s the end of spring, and the Kyrgyz herders are on the move. The Kyrgyz have been nomads since antiquity, well before the time of the Soviet Union, and used to move all the time between numerous pastures without harming the environment. Since independence however, they only move their animals from their village to the fresh grass of a single summer pasture. For most Kyrgyz herders, it’s not a long trip, and for the herders of Josholu, the summer pasture is only 10 kilometers away from the village.
TITLE
Zymdan summer pastures
VOICEOVER
Professor Orunbek Kolanov is visiting the herder's camps in the summer pastures.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
How are you?
BAKTYGUL MAKAEVA [Livestock herder]
I am fine.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
Do you remember how the grass used to grow so high?
BAKTYGUL MAKAEVA
You cannot compare the grass we had in our childhood with the grass we have nowadays.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
A landslide happened there. Probably, it was entirely green 15, 20 or 30 years ago.
BAKTYGUL MAKAEVA
It was fine just 10 years ago. It's been just five years since that landslide.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
So it is more recent.
BAKTYGUL MAKAEVA
It's been two years since that other landslide.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
I can tell it is very recent.
VOICEOVER
Overgrazing mainly causes land degradation. It exposes bare land to the harsh weather conditions of this region, reduces the capacity of the land to feed the animals people depend on for their livelihoods, and endangers fragile mountain ecosystems.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
How can we protect this now? This will become a rocky cliff if we have more landslides.
BAKTYGUL MAKAEVA
It depends on God's will.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
Of course, it depends on God's will.
VOICEOVER
Jengishbek and Kyzgaldak’s family camp is not too far away. And today they are having a special celebration.
KYZGALDAK BAZARKULOVA
My son turns one today, so it is his birthday. We are happily enjoying it. It is much more enjoyable at the summer pastures. Here everything looks special.
JENGISHBEK ESENKULOV [Livestock herder]
I am slaughtering a sheep for my child and as an offering to God. Twenty years ago, very few families went out to the summer pastures because there were fewer animals. Before, during the time of the Soviet farms, people were obliged to turn in meat, pay taxes and other things. The more animals you had he more meat you had to turn in whether you liked it or not. So the livestock did not increase. Now people don't turn in meat to a collective farm. You just pay tax for use of the pastures and nothing else.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
So, here you cannot do anything other than livestock breeding?
BAKTYGUL MAKAEVA
No, you cannot. Here in the mountains, our livelihood is livestock breeding. The animals are extremely important for the Kyrgyz. We use their dung to provide heat. Milk products are consumed without any waste. From cow’s milk, we prepare butter, yogurt, dry cheese and cream cheese. We ferment the mare's milk. We Kyrgyz also ride the horses, slaughter sheep to eat and sell them for money. For the Kyrgyz, livestock is very good indeed.
JENGISHBEK ESENKULOV
Now there is abundance of everything. If you want to buy clothes, educate your children, or build a house, you need money. So you sell animals. Everything is based on the animals. There is no other income! There is nowhere we can work, there are no jobs. Earlier, when the collective farm still operated, you could live off the collective farm salary.
VOICEOVER
As night falls in the summer pastures the animals return home. Day after day, and year after year, the efforts of the Kyrgyz herders repeat in cycles. As they strive for a better future, it is essential to find ways to take care of the land their lives depend on.
ORUNBEK KOLANOV
I hope that our actions will have a significant effect and make a positive contribution to the development of the economy of this region while at the same time preserving the natural environment.