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Kyrgyzstan is a country blessed with beautiful wild landscapes, exceptional wildlife, a rich culture and a deeply generous and hospitable people. Their traditions are founded on the principles of co-existence with nature and a deep respect for the land.
However this is also a country of change and of economic extremes, where the modest successes of market reforms in the capital city Bishkek contrast starkly with the crippling poverty in rural areas.
This poverty is forcing local people to use natural resources at a rate that is driving some species, such as the snow leopard, towards extinction. This overexploitation is destroying the delicate natural balance their ancestors maintained for generations.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been progressively working with partner organisations in Kyrgyzstan for almost 15 years to address these threats.
The unique fruit and nut forests of Central Asia have declined by at least 80% over the last 50 years and are still under threat from grazing, hay making, over harvesting, illegal tree cutting and firewood collection.
FFI and our partners are helping the local forest service and communities to plan together to protect and manage the forests. Through seminars, events and publications we are raising awareness of the global importance of the forests and the conservation issues, as well as developing practical solutions to address threats, such as solar cookers and heaters. We are also supporting grassroots initiatives to engage school children in setting up nurseries to grow threatened trees for planting in the forest.
FFI is actively conserving the Endangered Niedzwetzky apple, one of the trees identified in The Red List of Trees of Central Asia. We are increasing knowledge and protection of the areas where it occurs and building capacity among the local forest service, protected area staff and local communities to protect and reinforce the populations by propagation in nurseries for subsequent planting. During 2010 and 2011, well over a thousand saplings were planted in the forest, which are now being cared for and monitored.
The Central Tien Shan mountain range is a crucial refuge for the charismatic but Endangered snow leopard. FFI has been working there since 2005, helping the staff at Sarychat-Ertash Reserve to combat poaching, monitor snow leopards, and engage communities. FFI has expanded its focus to include working with the Naryn Reserve, another snow leopard stronghold in the Central Tien Shan, to strengthen its technical capacity. We aim to enable both reserves to deliver more effective management, as well as enhancing ecological connectivity between the reserves, and improving community outreach in support of snow leopard conservation.
FFI has been instrumental in the establishment and development of a network of 138 community-based organisations linked together through three regional associations. These grass roots groups have implemented local community initiatives which have brought sustainable livelihood and environmental benefits to rural mountain communities. FFI aims to strengthen the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of these organisations by providing them with the training and targeted experience exchanges needed to improve their ability to manage, plan and implement community development activities.