Wild and rugged beauty

Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, is blessed with beautiful, wild and mountainous 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.

Although forests account for a relatively small area of land in Kyrgyzstan, the country is notably home to significant tracts of globally important fruit-and-nut forest. Characterised by ancient walnut stands, these forests also harbour a wide variety of other fruit- and nut-bearing trees, including wild apple, pear, cherry, plum, pistachio and almond. Many of these species are the ancestors of today’s domesticated varieties, and are an important storehouse of genetic diversity.

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 that their ancestors maintained for generations.

Kyrgyzstan facts
Country in Eurasia

Size (land & water):

199,951km²

Population (2016 est.):

5,727,553

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$3,500

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.

150-500

snow leopards are estimated to live in Kyrgyzstan.

94%

of the country is at least 1,000 metres above sea level.

Our work to protect Kyrgyzstan’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in Kyrgyzstan since 1997, and over the years we have been involved in a wide variety of activities, ranging from improving protected area management and boosting conservation measures for threatened species such as the snow leopard to carrying out important biodiversity research and monitoring and working with local communities for conservation.

The legacy of this work is clear. There is evidence that species such as ibex and snow leopard are increasing in Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve thanks to our work with partners to build the capacity of park rangers, improve research and monitoring, and raise awareness about conservation among local women, men and children. This was the first protected area in Kyrgyzstan to have a management plan in place, which FFI helped to develop in close collaboration with local community members and other stakeholders.

In the south of the country, we are focusing on halting the decline in Kyrgyzstan’s precious fruit-and-nut forests, and ensuring that communities can continue to use the forest’s resources sustainably while conserving biodiversity. This has involved supporting local community-based organisations to develop sustainable income generating activities, providing training on vocational and entrepreneurial skills, and helping to set up and fund a community association of eco-ourism and a fruit and nut processing facility. Two plots of fast-growing trees have also been established to satisfy community needs for firewood and construction materials in a sustainable way that reduces pressure on the forest.

In collaboration with Sary-Chelek Biosphere Reserve, we have also grown almost 4,000 saplings of the rare Niedzwetzky’s apple to date and planted them out in their natural habitat. We have also donated 100 saplings to the National Botanic Garden in Bishkek. Furthermore, together with the National Academy of Sciences, we have developed a monitoring scheme for rare and threatened tree species and trained staff from the Dashman and Sary-Chelek Reserves in carrying out this work.

This work continues today, with FFI providing ongoing support for resources, surveys and training for partners and stakeholders in the fruit-and-nut forest.

“FFI has a unique approach to working in the conservation sector in Kyrgyzstan. It does so through empowerment and capacity building of local partner organisations and stakeholders, and engagement of experts from local institutions. These are the people who know the local situation best but often lack funding and support to address many pressing issues. Together we are able to reach our programme goals and conserve the amazing wildlife of Kyrgyzstan.”

Jarkyn SamanchinaCountry Director, Kyrgyzstan