Driving the village herd to summer mountain pastures to reduce the pressure on land close to the village. Katon-Karagai rayon, Kazakhstan.
Photo: GIZ/NRM Programme


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The former Soviet Central Asian republics have undergone de-intensification of their livestock sectors, resulting in an increased reliance on natural pastures. Property rights systems are key to the sustainable management of this resource. However, as the authors demonstrate, it is not easy to implement the respective reform processes.

Central Asia receives little attention from the development community although, at 3.9 million km2, its area is close to that of the European Union. The region’s forests, soils and pasturelands are under pressure from rising rural populations whose dependence on those resources has increased since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Globally important ecosystems are at risk, particularly in the face of climate change. While restoration programmes are expensive, improvements in management systems – although institutionally challenging – are relatively cheap. They may be particularly effective in the case of pastures, where resource use is highly uneven. However, the low priority given to sustainable and inclusive land management by governments represents a major barrier to reform processes.

Post-independence challenges

During the Soviet period, livestock movement between seasonal pastures, often using traditional migratory routes, was an important component of grazing systems. However, importation of subsidised winter feed meant that migrations could be less extensive than before, and allowed livestock numbers to reach historical highs.

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