Alina and Ulukbek are Delegates of ILC's Global Land Forum Youth 2022 from Kyrgyzstan. On Earth Day, they share with us why it's important to preserve Kyrgyzstan's mountain biodiversity.
The year 2022 has been declared the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development. The decision was taken in December 2021, when participants of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to declare this observation, at the proposal of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.
As part of the resolution’s implementation, the Government of Kyrgyzstan will promote an initiative for the adoption of a five-year action plan for the development of mountain regions. In January 2022 the action plan was declared the Year of Protection of Mountain Ecosystems and Climate Sustainability. This is a big step toward paying more attention to the conservation of mountainous areas, as mountains are a source of biodiversity, not just for Kyrgyzstan, but for the entire Central Asian region.
Why do mountains matter to Kyrgyzstan?
About 95% of the land in Kyrgyzstan is covered by mountains. They protect the country from the frosty winds of Siberia and the sultry heat of the surrounding deserts. In turn, this has created unique diverse climatic conditions in the mountainous regions, which makes local biodiversity thrive. Despite its small territory, the Kyrgyz mountains accommodate 1% of the planet's total biodiversity.
Ecosystems such as pistachio, almond, nuts, and fruit forests possess rare, endemic, and endangered species of trees. At the same time, the forests are an important economic resource of the country and provide livelihoods for the people. Almost all types of plant communities that are characteristic of the Eurasian continent are found in Kyrgyzstan.
Climate change is a blow to the stability of the entire Central Asian region
Mountain ecosystems are vulnerable to extreme climate and are most often exposed to phenomena such as soil erosion, landslides, natural disasters, rapid destruction of habitat conditions and genetic diversity, as well as degradation of pastures.
A number of reasons for the deterioration of mountain ecosystems can be identified, such as climate change, anthropogenic/human impact, a reduction in the areas of forest and shrubs, and natural renewal of coniferous species, among others. All this leads to the progressive depletion of species diversity and ultimately, the desertification of territories and the disruption of ecosystem stability.
Further deterioration of mountains also affects local communities, their well-being and access to natural resources such as land, water, forests and pastures. Because of the water stress and degradation of land resources caused by the climate crisis, there has been an intensification of conflicts between forest and pasture users. This is why effective policies are needed for land users to face these challenges.
The role of local communities and organisations in the conservation of mountain ecosystems
Local communities in Kyrgyzstan, realising the importance of their contribution to the preservation of nature, have become increasingly involved in the process of conservation, restoration, and rational use of natural resources. These local communities, on their own initiative, protect and contribute to the improvement of the state of natural territories, disseminate information about the importance of preserving ecosystems and biodiversity, and create protected areas, thereby motivating others to take care of nature.
For example, the local community Tooluu Oroon (meaning mountain valley) from the Toguz-Bulak village in northern Kyrgyzstan, where up to 1,200 families live, has taken wetlands under their self-governance and protected this area from poachers and hunters.
Another local community, the Public Association of Pasture Users of the Cholpon village in Kochkor district, preserve and rationally use pasture lands of the Ak-Ki and Son-Kol plots, with a total area of approximately 53,499 hectares.
Youth at the centre of it all
We as youth representatives from ILC members the Rural Development Fund and the Kyrgyz Association of Forest and Land Users support the work of such communities that protect the natural territories and ecosystems of Kyrgyzstan.
In particular, we work with young people and women from the communities, involve them in educational seminars, support and facilitate their participation in decision-making processes, and also advise them on issues of respect for nature using the traditional knowledge of our ancestors coupled with new innovations.
Within the framework of the year of protection of mountain ecosystems and climate sustainability, the government-run national campaign "Zhashyl Muras" ("Green Heritage") is being carried out, providing support and assistance in the implementation of projects, activities on ecology, conservation of natural territories, resources, and biodiversity, where young people actively participate in the national scale forest planting.
As delegates for the Global Land Forum Youth 2022 in Jordan, we are excited to promote the conservation of mountain, forest, and water ecosystems as these are directly related to human rights and the availability of land for everyone.