The people of Central Asia are among those suffering directly from the effects of climate change. In a region where nomadic pastoralism remains a traditional culture and source of livelihoods, climate change has significantly impacted these communities as they rely heavily on common resources such as forests, water bodies, and pastures. Their land rights are not secure and their voices are often not included in the formulation of policies and regulations.
According to the World Bank, in the past 30 years, Central Asia has experienced 500 floods and earthquakes, affecting 25 million people. Despite this, in order to mitigate and adapt to changing conditions, pastoralists use their traditional knowledge and practices to manage pastures and produce food in a sustainable way. In the context of climate change, pastoralists can therefore be effective resource managers.
ILC Asia member Hijaba Ykhanbai, the focal point of the Central Asia Pastoralist Alliance (CAPA) took an active part at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the United Kingdom back in November 2021. The COP26 Summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Hijaba shared with us the main takeaways of COP26 regarding the pastures and pastoralists.
What were the results of COP26 discussions regarding climate change and pastures?
In terms of rangelands, it was a good opportunity to give visibility to pastoralist livelihoods as vital agents for climate change mitigation, ecosystem restoration, and resilient food systems. Many decision-makers understand that pastoralists are a crucial part of the solution to the climate crisis. The COP leaders understood the need to strengthen the socio-economic and ecological values of the pastoralist communities and recognise their right to land and natural resources. The new ILC Strategy for 2022-2030 will play an important role in such an implementation.
Which solutions do pastoralists from Central Asia use to adapt and mitigate climate change?
- Nomadic pastoralism is a solution for climate change mitigation, ecosystem restoration, and resilient food systems, which traditionally is focused on mobility rotation and shifting pasture use between the seasons.
- Artificial glaciers: the pastures in Kyrgyzstan are characterised by extreme seasonal temperatures ranging from 40℃ to -40℃ and a lean annual amount of precipitation. Under these conditions, water plays a very important role in sustaining life in rural areas, whether for domestic use, livestock watering, or agricultural production. A lack of fresh water in the spring makes it difficult for the emergence of vegetation, thus damaging the mountain ecosystem.
Kyrgyz Jayity, an ILC Asia member, collaborated with local communities in Kyrgyzstan to pilot the innovative project of conserving irrigation water by creating artificial glaciers (constructions). Artificial glacier is an engineering structure to store winter water for use in the arid months of late spring and early summer when meltwater is scarce. These constructions are useful to provide water for pastures during dry seasons by the contribution of local villagers.
What is the role of the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP) 2026 in supporting pastoralists to combat climate change?
The Mongolian Government proposal for the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP) 2026 could provide the impetus for realising this ambitious change agenda. It would increase a global understanding of the importance of rangelands for global food security and environmental services, and call attention to the need for sustainable management and enlightened policies in both developed and developing countries. Such a recognition would enhance the perceived natural and cultural values of rangelands and pastoral livelihood systems, strengthen pastoralists’ rights and pride in their cultural systems and traditions especially among the youth, foster innovation toward sustainability, and overcoming poverty.