Kazakhstan - Rangelands in Transition
The Resource, the Users and Sustainable Use

Tjaart W. Schillborn van Veen, Ilja I. Alimaev and Bulat Utkelov





Kazakhstan is the sixth largest country worldwide in terms of the size of its grasslands. Rangelands covered nearly 186 million ha (70% percent of all land resources of the Republic) and, historically, were a driving force in the countrys economy as a source of fodder, food, fuel, medicinal plants, recreation areas, etc. These rangelands supported livestock as well as a large wildlife population that included large herds of the now threatened saiga antelope. Most of these lands are drylands with an average rainfall between 100 and 300 mm, and a wide temperature- range of over 30oC in summer and less than minus 25oC in winter. Some of these lands, such as the southern saxaul woodlands, and the Betpak Dala and Moyun Kum deserts in south central Kazakhstan contain unique landscapes and ecosystems. Kazakh rangelands also contribute to the global carbon balance by storing substantial amounts of carbon, an asset that may have commercial and economic value to the country and its landowners when carbon trading is developed.

An estimated 6 million people (40% of the population) depend directly or indirectly on these resources for their livelihood, and many live in poverty. The transition during the 1990s has seen a decline in many of agricultural services previously provided by the Government, while the population has been slow to adjust to the new economic conditions. Much of the rangeland has been abandoned because of lack of access, degradation, lack of water and lack of basic amenities for sustainable livelihoods (i.e. electricity, medical or educational facilities, shops, etc.). The abandoned or under utilized rangeland is estimated to be close to100 million ha. Indeed, when compared to countries with similar grassland resources, Kazakhstan does not appear to fully realize the benefits that proper use of these resources offer, both economically and environmentally. As such, it has been deemed appropriate to review the issues, and suggest policies and actions that will assist the Government and the country in the sustainable use of this valuable resource.

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