On a crisp Oct afternoon, Bakhadir Fazilov approached a tall walnut tree, wrapped his legs and arms all around the trunk and started climbing toward the prime — more than 40 feet over ground.
At the prime of the tree, Fazilov nimbly stepped out onto a flimsy branch and started shaking the limbs until eventually the walnuts came crashing down to the ground.
Kyrgyzstan is house to the greatest purely natural walnut forest on Earth. It’s a exceptional ecosystem with a lot more than 30,000 acres that rises over the bustling city of Arslanbob, not considerably from the Uzbekistan border. But local weather adjust and improved cattle farming have developed rigorous force on the walnut forest.
Every tumble, locals like Fazilov camp out in the ancient, shadowy walnut forest in southwestern Kyrgyzstan for up to two months. In a fantastic year, harvesters can select pretty much a ton of nuts, and purchasers arrive from as far away as Turkey and Russia to order the crop. But this 12 months, the harvest was so weak that handful of locals even bothered to lug their tents up into the mountains to decide on the walnuts.
“Last summertime, the weather conditions was genuinely incredibly hot, so all the nuts fell off,” Fazilov stated.
The walnut forest the place Fazilov sets up camp with his spouse and 4 small children each slide is government land. Fazilov rents about 10 acres for about $80. In a excellent year, he can generate extra than $1,200 for the season. But this calendar year, he might only make of half that.
Livestock existing an even additional pressing obstacle to the walnut forests than local climate alter.
Many Kyrgyz make a dwelling herding cows and sheep that graze on pastures in the nearby mountains that rise above the walnut trees. Most of those people pastures also belong to the authorities, but authorities do not put many limits on livestock grazing.
In the location surrounding the walnut forest, livestock quantities have been raising by 3% to 4% annually, and the pastures are finding depleted. Now, herders enable animals roam the walnut forests in search of foodstuff.
The thick forest also delivers a shade for animals and herders through the sweltering summer time months. Cows eat the tiny walnut saplings, which indicates there is no new growth. And horses roaming by way of the forests also try to eat the bark, which kills the old trees.
“Just glimpse at all the wounds on this tree,” Fazilov said, pointing at the yellow wooden the place a horse experienced stripped the bark. “We cannot pick a excellent harvest since of this [damage].”
Fazilov mentioned he would like to put up fencing in this stretch of forest that he rents to retain the animals out, but he stated that he just cannot find the money for it.
In rural Kyrgyzstan, several have several financial alternatives besides migrating to Russia or remaining at dwelling and working the land — which normally usually means herding animals.
Environmental employees there say that numerous Kyrgyz are distrustful of financial institutions, so people today commit what price savings they have in animals. The notion is that promoting animals for meat is a improved investment decision than the meager fascination gained in a discounts account.
But herding animals has led to serious environmental issues, these kinds of as growing desertification and a loss of plant diversity.
On a hill in the pastureland superior above the walnut forest, livestock have eaten all the plant existence down to the filth. The only vegetation that remains is bits of dry chaff and grass lying on the ground over black dust.
“This hill is naked, the animals ate all the things,” explained Nurgazy Nurbaev, a manager at the Kyrgyz environmental organization CAMP Alatoo, as he gazed out at the desiccated pasture. “There’s 2 ½ moments far more animals grazing right here than the pasture can guidance,” Nurbaev claimed.
At the major of the hill, CAMP Alatoo has set up two major metal cages secured with padlocks. Within there is grass and shrubs expanding.
“This is what the pasture would glance like if there have been no animals,” Nurbaev explained, gesturing towards the cages.
CAMP Alatoo’s researchers collect facts in these cages to gauge how much grazing the land can basically support. They make recommendations to herders about how to greater control the land. But CAMP Alatoo’s task manager, Jyrgal Kozhomberdiev, mentioned that not sufficient herders are subsequent their assistance.
“Many persons are just continuing [on], [with] enterprise as common,” Kozhomberdiev reported.
Kozhomberdiev hopes that technological know-how can be element of the option. CAMP Alatoo aided to digitize different pasture management applications all over the region. Nearby pasture committees can use this information and facts to figure out wherever to transfer herds to much less congested pastures and gauge their environmental impact.
And this year, CAMP Alatoo aided produce a new smartphone application called Pasture Monitoring that herders and researchers can use to doc the transforming surroundings.
Out there in Kyrgyz, Russian and English, the app necessitates customers to consider a picture of the landscape they see and then pick from checklists that explain characteristics, these kinds of as plant species and soil high-quality. Consumers also tag their place and can select to backlink the info they acquire to a server that scientists can obtain.
“This type of information and facts was not collected considering that the Soviet Union collapsed, owing to a absence of funding, so we assume that this mobile application can aid the method [of data collection],” Kozhomberdiev said.
Scientific exploration on Kyrgyzstan’s pastureland has been almost nonexistent for many a long time. It can be the herders who have some of the most in-depth know-how about how the changing local weather is influencing nearby ecosystems. Though they have exacerbated current environmental difficulties, they can now be a key element of the alternative.
There are truly two approaches to harvest a walnut in Kyrgyzstan — some could hold out until eventually a strong storm blows via and knocks the nuts to the ground. But many locals hope to keep on to camp out in the walnut forest, climbing up the trees to shake the nuts no cost every slide.