FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Kazakhstan works toward securing precious pastures for future generations

Sustainable pasture management in Kazakhstan, including the basics of desert pasture animal husbandry and forage production in dry conditions, the introduction of field school approaches for livestock farmers, and many other aspects were discussed during FAO’s recent virtual training.

“Sustainable management ensures the long-term use of pastures and allows for the optimization of pasture production without harming the environment,” said Eran Raizman, FAO senior animal health and production officer.

Livestock is among the leading agricultural sectors in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, which employs a significant portion of the population. About 72 percent of the region's area is rangeland, but it is poorly managed.

The degradation of pastures has serious consequences – low livestock productivity and increased rural poverty, which in turn makes villagers more vulnerable to external stresses such as climate change. In addition, abandoned remote pastures become overgrown with aggressive weeds with low quality nutrient content for animals, whose excessive growth also negatively affects biodiversity.

Held within the framework of the GEF-funded multi-country project "Integrated natural resources management in drought-prone and salt-affected agricultural production landscapes in Central Asia and Turkey" (CACILM2), the webinar has become an international platform for discussing current issues on the conservation and restoration of Central Asia's most valuable natural resource – pastures.

“Pastures are a very valuable resource, both in terms of biodiversity conservation and mitigation of climate change risks and the well-being of the population,” said Mahmud Shaumarov, CACILM-2 regional coordinator. "Therefore, this joint FAO and GEF programme attaches great importance to training, as well as the introduction of effective approaches and agricultural technologies for the conservation and restoration of pastures in the Central Asian region."

Pastures make up more than 186 million hectares or 84.1 percent of all farmland in Kazakhstan, which puts the country in fifth place in the world in terms of pasture area. However, over the past hundred years, 48 million hectares of land have been degraded in the country, including 38 percent of pastureland.

Two factors hinder the sustainable management of this resource not only in Kazakhstan, but also in all Central Asian countries: excessive pressure and trampling affect fields around settlements and grazing areas, while more remote pastures are inaccessible due to the lack of water sources and infrastructure (roads, bridges, housing, communications, and many more).

"In Kazakhstan the issue of rational pasture management is quite acute,” stated Marat Usbaev, department head of the Land Management Committee at the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture. “We are particularly concerned about the degradation of pastures around villages; therefore, we are very happy that FAO is paying attention to this problem and working in Kazakhstan in this direction."

It is also necessary to improve the legislative and institutional framework in the field of land resources and improve knowledge in the field of sustainable pasture management to address the issue successfully.

“The need for effective pasture management in Kazakhstan is inextricably linked to the development of family farming, which is especially relevant in the context of the UN Decade of Family Farming 2019–2028,” said Kairat Nazhmidenov, FAO Representative in Kazakhstan, in his welcoming words to the participants. “By managing rangeland resources efficiently, we also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The webinar brought together more than 80 agricultural specialists from all the countries of Central Asia, as well as from Australia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Mongolia, and Turkey. The training sessions were lead by FAO specialists, including Eran Raizman and Almasbek Sadyrbayev, Chairman of the Board of the Kazakh National Association of Sheep Breeders.

21 October 2020, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan