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is a not-for-profit and nongovernmental policy and research organization established in 2003 to conduct research, develop policy recommendations, and implement activities in the field of the rural development.

Rural Development Fund

is a not-for-profit and nongovernmental policy and research organization established in 2003 to conduct research, develop policy recommendations, and implement activities in the field of the rural development.

Rural Development Fund

is a not-for-profit and nongovernmental policy and research organization established in 2003 to conduct research, develop policy recommendations, and implement activities in the field of the rural development.

Rural Development Fund




International Land Coalition (ILC) Asia Land Forum and Regional Assembly has conducted in Kyrgyzstan

Participation of RDF in ILC's Forum

RDF took part in festival "Shirge Zhyar" in Talas region

LOSL took part in a Global Forum on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard

Participation of members of international network “Land of Snow Leopard ” at the Forum on preserving Snow Leopard in Bishkek

All news

Capturing Kyrgyz Traditional Pastoral Knowledge

to Recover Sustainable Pastoral Practices


Fast Facts


Realization period: 2007-2008


Area: Kok-Oirok aiyl okrug, Chui oblast


Donor: The Christensen Fund, USA


Partner: Kok-Oirok Jamaat


Contact: kakmatova@rdf.in.kg



Kyrgyz Republic has obtained independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Almost a century its history was affected by colonization first by Russian empire and then by the Soviets. This period has had a tremendous negative impact on overall lifestyle of Kyrgyz people, deterioration of its economic, institutional and social fabrics. With thousands of educated and advanced livestock farmers exiled and killed, long time ignoring and even inhibiting local practices and beliefs, many traditions and traditional knowledge were lost and forgotten. In addition, Soviet centrally planned economy, inefficient and unsustainable use of natural resources devastated Kyrgyz ecosystems and especially fragile rangelands.


Pastures are still a major source of livelihood and identity for a large part of Kyrgyzstan's population, constituting nearly 90% of all agricultural land. Once a nomadic culture that historically engaged in pastoral transhumance, the Kyrgyz were forced to settle into collective farms during Soviet times with a heavy intensification of livestock production. After gaining independence and in the course of the land reform, the collective farms were dissolved, agricultural arable land privatized but pastures remain state-owned, ineffectively managed by a complex system of government institutions that do not reflect current practices or address ecosystem recovery. To ensure future economic and ecological sustainability, a clear picture is needed of how rangeland ecosystems intrinsic to Kyrgyz culture for centuries, adapted to the changes brought by the Soviet era and the post-independence period.


Since local communities see no visible gains or income to them or their local government bodies from rangeland resource use, they engage itself in illegal hunting, timber logging and other unsustainable activities competing with external users. It negatively affects environment, leads to depletion of valuable natural resources and create conflicts between various users.


Project aim

- improvement of livelihoods of the rural, mountainous and especially poor people by creating an enabling environment for sustainable, equitable and efficient use of natural resources through promotion of Community Based Natural Resource Management based on sustainable, fair, locally acceptable and economically viable traditional practices.

- reflections of the traditional knowledge to these communities to influence policy by empowering local self government (aiyl okmotu) with essential tools for sustainable pasture management gleaned from their own traditional knowledge and to make recommendations to the national level policy makers on changing policy and legal environment.


Project objectives

Collection, analysis, reflection and preservation of traditional knowledge of livestock grazing and sustainable ecosystem management.


Project area

Research was conducted in three upland communities of Kayindy, Karal-Dobo and Tegirmenty villages of Kok-Oirok aiyl okmotu in Kemin rayon, Chui oblast. There were major criteria for selection of local communities:

- upland livestock homogenous communities

- long history of living in current landscape

- balance of different ages and genders among their populations

- environmentally rich landscapes since people and their environment will be recognized as a "whole".

- some level of preservation of animal grazing traditions


Main research dimensions on traditional knowledge

- Grazing patterns, informal customary institutions and decision-making structures;

- Rangeland/pastures: state, changes, problems, appraisal indicators;

- Traditional and present-day livestock raising and herding practices;

- Pastoral culture: customs, lifestyle, folklore;

- Use of other rangeland resources: traditional ways of using natural resources, dispute resolution.


Each of these dimensions had to be reviewed and analyzed through the prism of the main relationship ‘nature and people': how and why it has changed over time, who and what caused the change, and who benefited or suffered from the change and what can be done to restore sustainable traditional practices.


Projects peculiarities

This research was highly innovative for Kyrgyzstan in using collaborative methods, involving local communities as research partners and not as pure beneficiaries in order to accurately and fairly capture their traditional practices on rangeland resources allocation, use, management, conflict resolution mechanisms and ecosystem's improvements. The whole communities through local youth, pasture users, community leaders, custodians of traditional knowledge and local researchers were engaged in this research.  The major focus of this research is on communities ways of living and in their surrounding landscapes and interactions between them within some period of time.


The research was aimed to collect traditional knowledge related to use of rangeland resources which is stored in people's memories, and activities are expressed in stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, dances, myths, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community norms and laws, local language and practices, materials, plant species, and animal breeds. This research conducted in partnership with community researchers and custodians of traditional knowledge was very enriching and benefiting local communities when knowledge collected and analyzed was shared with the selected communities as well as with wide range of other communities. Some local communities have lost confidence in their ability to help themselves and have become dependant on external solutions to their local problems which are not always beneficial and in some cases even detrimental to their ecosystems.


After close living and working with pastoral communities, the RDF experts were glad to ascertain that their assumption of Kok-Oirok as a remaining pocket of traditional pastoral landscapes, lifestyles, cultural patterns and, moreover, traditional pastoral set of mind.  RDF experts discovered a real mountain pastoral community blessed with abundant rangelands and rich history, where authentic pastoral spirit has persisted despite the Soviet time negation and interference.  This first fact-finding visit to three villages provided the experts with important information for tailoring the inceptive research strategy towards real ground situation.


The RDF researchers, under the guidance of the Research Manager, designed the research strategy, developed the research tools and defined the sampling frame. The key research approach was to engage the communities into the research process to a maximum degree, involving different generations as well as genders (the insider's view) and the RDF experts (the outsider's view). It was decided to use multiple research methods in order to facilitate and crosscheck the collected data.


Traditional Knowledge exhibition in Kayindy village

The RDF core team, jointly with the community researchers, conducted an interactive "reflection meeting" where they reported about the process of research, findings, interesting things they have learnt during and from the research and present them and the exhibition to the pastoral community members. Custodians of traditional knowledge and other representatives of these communities discussed importance of the preservation of traditional knowledge to their livelihoods and landscapes, discuss jointly findings on ecosystem changes, reasons and implications of these changes to environment and their life.


It was a crucial part of the project when three pastoral communities had a chance to look at themselves through their own traditional knowledge collected by their own members, get aware of positive and negative changes and think about solutions to problems in use and management of their natural resources. It was launched by community members to conduct such reflection meeting each summer and named that holiday as a "Kok-Oirok Day".


Main project outcomes

- Change of attitude from the big part of community members to their heritage - traditional knowledge, both elder and young generations gaining confidence in its value, shifting from negation, arrogance ignorance to appreciation, recognition and wish to learn their own heritage. Many aspects of TK are valuable today and can be used in livestock activity with less cost and better results.

- Change of attitude of communities regarding their natural environment: rangeland, pastures, forests, rivers, springs - from notion of "no one's land" - to "our common land" which they are responsible for and should take care of.

- Emerging interest in community to continue research on their traditional knowledge and its practical use.

- Mobilization of community in appreciation of its own traditions and using them for better environment and livelihood.

Rural Development Fund

Geologicheskiy str., Office 1

Bishkek, 720005, Kyrgyz Republic

Phone: +996 (312)590828 

Mob. phone: +996 (770)330106 

Email: general@rdf.in.kg

© RDF 2008 - 2015

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