Pastoralist Knowledge Hub

Central Asia

Central Asia has about 250 million hectares of pasture, including parts of Russia, Mongolia and China and more than half of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan where pastoralism is the mainstay of many people. The populations are relatively small, but they are highly specialized and mobilized pastoralists. 90% of the world’s yaks are reared in this cold desert region, along with camels, horse, goat and Tibetan sheep. They have long, extensive trade relations with neighbouring farming communities. The animals are well adapted to the altitude and cold temperatures found in this region. Bactrian camels are found only here. 

This region was also under the influence of the Soviet collectivization policies and the fall of the Soviet Union led to a decline in state support for pastoralism. In view of the growing demands for wool and yak fibre from this region, as well as animal source food, pastoralism has picked up. In many cases, pastures are co-managed by the local councils and pastoralists, and through institutions such as pasture user groups.

Challenges faced by Central Asian pastoralists include insecure  tenure access to resources, disruption of mobility routes, large scale land acquisitions for mining, hydropower, or large development projects, etc, and land degradation triggered by inappropriate land use. Large increase in herds due to increasing demands for livestock fibres such as cashmere. The region also experiences extreme weather events such as very harsh winters known as dzuds in which there are large livestock losses.

The Hub has supported:

  • The consolidation of the pastoralist constituency in a regional pastoral network by supporting community dialogues and a regional meeting held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2015.
  • Mongolian pastoralists through the Mongolian National Pasture User Groups to implement the IFAD funded Pastoralist Driven Data Management System Project.
  • The active participation of the regional pastoral network in processes such as the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock.
  • ·Other FAO initiatives in the region by supporting the FAO land tenure team to implement the VGGT and review the draft pastureland law for Mongolia. The Mongolian National Federation of Pasture User groups is advocating to improve rangeland management legal environment and policy.

The Hub also participated in the sub-regional working group meeting that was held in Tashkent in September 2019, to exchange learning, best practices and work results from the previous triennial period up to 2019 and propose activities for the next triennial period (2020-2022). The Central Asia Rangeland Initiative, including members of ILC and partners from the region, focuses on rangeland tenure systems. The initiative is currently upgrading its network, as Central Asia Pastoral Alliance (CAPA) in cooperation with the Hub.

CAPA actively supports the Mongolian Proposal for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP), calling attention on the need for recognizing pastoralism and to implement sustainable management of rangelands by countries and organizations. Most recently, the Mongolian Government presented a request for an IYRP designation at an open session of the October 2018 COAG meeting in FAO Rome, and it was formally supported by Ethiopia.  Now Mongolia is leading the effort to gain additional country-level support for a formal resolution to be presented at the 2020 COAG Meeting in FAO Rome. The proposal is supported by more than 40 international, regional organizations, and herders associations globally.