Land Use and Management Practices
The three type regions in the Pamir-AlaiMountains are characterized by distinct land use systems, which emerged from traditional forms of livelihood influenced by the Soviet planned economy and the transition to market economy after independence. The typical management practices and resource use strategies as found in the pilot sites are summarized below for the Western Pamirs, Eastern Pamirs and AlaiMountain ranges. It has to be considered that there are of course local land use differences between communities within one type region.
Mixed Mountain Agriculture in the Western Pamirs
The typical livelihood system in the Western Pamirs can be best described as mixed mountain agriculture: A household-centered irrigation agriculture and livestock farming on seasonally different altitudes. Herding activity is characterized by mountain pasturing meaning where livestock is kept on one main summer pasture and in stables during winter.
On arable land mainly wheat and potatoes are grown in a two-year-cycle of crop rotation. Further cultivations constitute of barley and oats, which are occasionally combined with legumes such as beans. Fallow periods are not applied since cropland is scarce and intensive agricultural production is essential for subsistence. Agriculture is characterized by a low degree of mechanization and land use thus requires high labor input of human and animal power. Ploughing is performed with the help of draught animals (cattle), since tractors are only available in few settlements and plots often to small to be mechanically ploughed. Nutrient input is mainly dependent on available animal dung collected from the stables, whereas chemical fertilizer is rarely affordable or applied to the lands. Sufficient water supply to the fields is ensured by flood or furrow irrigation. The scarce irrigated land is hardly used for fodder cultivation. Hay to feed animals in winter is cut on wild meadows or on grass stripes along croplands. In addition, agricultural residues are extracted from plots and used as fodder thus further reducing nutrient return to arable land. In order to avoid degradation of soil and crops the following measures are regularly applied: Variation of seeds, i.e. purchase of new seeds or exchange with neighboring households, crop rotation or combined cultivation of crops to reduce plant diseases as well as to maintain soil fertility. Processes of soil erosion and salinization are mitigated by contour ploughing and frequent flooding of soils. Cropland is typically situated on plain areas or gentle slopes. However, extension of arable land to marginal areas results in the cultivation of also steep slopes, while terracing is not very common nor elaborated. Besides croplands small kitchen gardens and orchards with apple, mulberry and apricot trees yield good harvest of vegetables, fruits and tobacco.
Water from brooks and springs feeding the ramified irrigation systems is both used for drinking purposes and for feeding water mills and micro hydropower stations. To guarantee satisfactory supply to the various demands, water distribution schedules are elaborated by local communities. Distribution and control of water supply is either managed by the mirab (water master) or by local authorities. The frequency of irrigation is dependent on the water availability. Often, land users can water their plots only every 5 to 12 days during several hours. Such schedules result in irrigation peaks on croplands, triggering top-soil erosion and wash out phenomena. Further, water scarcity leads to conflicting use between irrigation and the operation of water mills or hydropower plants. Since irrigation has first priority for water supply local electricity generation or grain processing is sometimes severely restricted or even impossible during irrigation periods.
Forest land is an important but endangered source of firewood. Furthermore, it serves as convenient and rich feeding ground for livestock. Clearing of riparian forest follows a typical series of forest resource depletion: Since the collection of dry wood is legal, first deadwood is harvested as fuel, then fresh branches are broken and left on the spot to dry for future legal firewood acquisition. The disappearance of brushwood supported by browsing cattle eases access to further forest areas and creates a park-like landscape with single tree trunks and short grass. With increased pressure on freely available fuel sources entire trees are illegally or commercially chopped down, then remaining stumps are gradually cut so that finally the area is entirely cleared and turned into pastureland. Where local forests have been exploited in a next step also remote tree populations are accessed. Especially in autumn truck loads of firewood from up to 80km distance are brought to the settlements as winter supplies. Commercial fuel acquisition is not affordable for the majority of the households. Hence, teresken shrubs are excessively harvested especially at high altitudes.
In summer, distant pastures at higher altitudes serve as feeding grounds for the cattle, sheep and goats. Though, around 10% of the livestock stays in the settlements grazing on village-near pastures to gain daily milk. Summer herding is organized at community level: Either one family, members from several households or shepherds employed by the farmer's association spend the summer months on high pastures taking care of the community's livestock and dairy product processing. Commonly, small livestock is kept on high pastures in the vicinity of the village, whereas cattle occupies more distant grazing grounds.
Semi-Nomadic Pastoralism in the Eastern Pamirs
Compared to traditional nomads, semi-nomadic pastoralists have a fixed homestead to where they return during winter. However, they still move their entire household together with their livestock to the summer camp located on distant pastures.
High altitudes and harsh climatic conditions on the high plains do not allow extensive agricultural production. Compared to the Western Pamirs there is hardly any arable land suitable for crop cultivation. However, small patches of irrigated kitchen gardens in the settlements give harvest of potato and barley. Crop cultivation was introduced only under Soviet rule and the social status of agricultural activities has always been low within the pastoralist communities. Therefore, livestock farming on seasonally different pastures constitutes the main form of livelihood in the Eastern Pamirs.
From July until mid-September herding households move to their summer camp (jailoo) to graze livestock on the summer pastures with rich alpine meadow and shrub vegetation at altitudes of 3,900-4,700m. Families live in yurts and are occupied with processing of dairy products for daily consumption and for winter stock. With the first frost in September families return to the lower winter camp (kishto) located close to the village at altitudes of 3,600m. Some herders stay in the jailoo until end of November and utilize the area between summer and winter camp. This so-called autumn pasture (kuzdeu) is used between mid-September and December providing mainly wormwoods and teresken as forage. Herders try to stay away from winter pastures as long as possible to preserve the area in the settlement's vicinity as feeding grounds for the hardest time of the year. Still, these pastures are not sufficient to nourish livestock during winter. Therefore, some family members move from mid-August to mid- September from the summer pastures to rich alpine meadows along rivers to perform the labor-intensive task of cutting hay plots for winter fodder. Such complex herding patterns need clear rules for land use and arrangements between families to avoid conflicting use and overtaxing of land resources. After the dissolution of the sovkhozes (state farms) in 1999 land use regulation were no more enforced. A farmers' association was therefore formed aiming at reestablishing a herding system and ensuring that interest of all herders were represented. The association distributed hay plots according to herd size and employed guards to protect them against browsing cattle. Further, it was decided that inhabitants from Murgab center do not have the right to receive hay plots forcing them to buy fodder in the market. However, the farmers' association lacks a strong legal status and wide support from the population. Moreover, decision-making has to be made more transparent and there is a need to properly define its tasks and competences.
Forest vegetation does virtually not exist on the arid high plains. There are small stretches of old willow vegetation along Murgab river and other negligible reforested plots. Of large significance is though the shrubby vegetation covering the vast plateaus of the Eastern Pamirs. Teresken shrubs as main heating resource have already been cleared in surroundings of the settlements. Therefore, trucks are needed to drive several tens of kilometers to harvest these shrubs on remote areas and later on sell the bundled teresken on the market in Murgab.
The unique wildlife constitutes a profitable source of income for several hunting camps offering trophy hunting of Marco Polo sheep and ibexes to international hunters. However, the local population does not benefit from the high license fees for trophies. As hunting for locals is prohibited poaching for meat purposes is frequently observed.
Transhumance in the Alai Mountains
Livestock farming in the AlaiMountains is characterized by transhumance which is distinguished from mountain pasturing by the number of pastures used for cattle grazing. Families also have a fixed homestead and only part of the household or community moves as herders with livestock, while grazing is usually on two main pasture areas at different altitudes. Agricultural activities in the Tajik Alai are comparable to irrigated crop production as found in the Western Pamirs, whereas people in Southern Kyrgyzstan are engaged in mainly rain-fed crop and fodder cultivation with only minor irrigated areas.
Agriculture in the Tajik Alai concentrates on potato and apple cultivation for local markets and subsistence production of vegetable fruits (carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber), pears, cherries and walnuts. All crop land needs to be irrigated including the orchards. Level of mechanization is low; although few tractors are available land is commonly ploughed with horse power and manually husbanded with spades and choppers. Crop rotation is not known since potato is the main crop grown in the fields and fallow periods are not applied due to shortage of arable land. Still, to minimize the risk of total failure different breeds of potatoes are planted. Further, mulching is practiced to protect soil from erosion and to compensate for low nutrient input. Chemical fertilizer is hardly affordable and dung constitutes also an important fuel source. In the Kyrgyz Alai main agricultural activity is potato cultivation for sale and subsistence, whereas wheat and barley with its low productivity is less important. Higher precipitations compared to the Pamirs allow rainfed cultivations, leaving only little arable land irrigated. Crop rotation is seldom applied as measure against fungal decay and fallow periods do not exist. Seeds are commonly taken from the previous harvest, exchanged with neighboring households and rarely purchased at high prices in Osh. Dung constitutes the main fertilizer, but nutrient input is constrained by competing fuel use. Small stone walls and tree plantations lining crop fields help to avert water and wind erosion.
Livestock farming is organized on an annual basis. From May until September (October) part of the household members migrates with cattle, sheep, goats and horses to summer pastures located in a distance of 10-20km from the settlements. In spring (March-April) and autumn (October-November) livestock is grazed on village-near pastures within a radius of around 10km. From December through March animals are kept in stables and sheep folds. Thus, families are engaged in hay making from June through August stocking up winter fodder for their livestock. During Soviet times there has been a more complex migration and pasture control system than present. More remote summer pastures were accessed by trucks conserving village-near grazing areas for winter. However, access to distant pastures has become difficult since roads and bridges have not been maintained during the past decade. Moreover, especially young and small families cannot afford to sent members to remote high pastures during summer. As a consequence, village-near pastures are overstocked, while former summer pastures lie fallow. In addition to the increased pressure on feeding grounds in the settlement's vicinity exerted by higher stocks and longer grazing periods, nutrient input is considerably reduced by collection of animal dung on these areas.
Populations of willow and poplar as well as shrubby vegetation are the only available and affordable energy resources. Forest lands are thus excessively exploited and under increased pressure due to the shortage of energy supply as in the other regions of the project area.
Irrigation infrastructure is maintained and water distribution managed by the local population. Responsibility for regular cleaning and rehabilitation of water channels is borne by the correspondent community organization.
Like in the Eastern Pamirs, private hunting companies offer expensive wildlife-trophy-tours for international tourists. Seasonal hunting is allowed and regulated by license and specific quota for different game.