New App Designed to Improve Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan

Agriculture in KyrgyzstanOn the western edge of Kyrgyzstan near the small town of Arslanbob, the largest naturally growing walnut forest on Earth has provided a steady source of income for local farmers for hundreds of years. In a typical year, farmers harvest as many as 1,500 tons of walnuts from this grove alone.  All members of the family participate in the harvesting of the walnuts by climbing up large trees to reach the valuable nuts that grow in the branches above. Upon reaching the nuts, they shake the branches, causing the nuts to tumble to the ground below, where other members of the family collect them. These farmers do not only sell walnuts but also keep some for their families when necessary. Still, the risk of a bad harvest showcases the importance of technological advancements to boost agriculture in Kyrgyzstan.

Causes of a Bad Harvest

Bad harvests can occur due to a wide variety of completely random influences, which can be exacerbated by a lack of infrastructural technologies that could assist farmers in preventing bad harvests from occurring when they are preventable. Notably, extreme weather patterns have hurt harvests in recent years including the harvest of 2020 when snow in the walnut’s budding season led to a dramatic decrease in yield that year.

In 2022, in addition to changing weather patterns, overgrazing by nearby livestock has caused devastating effects on the walnut harvest. Many Kyrgyz herd cattle and sheep as their primary source of income. This livestock requires a lot of food and when nearby pastures are overgrazed, the shepherds need to lead their herd elsewhere. The massive walnut grove provides shelter from the intense heat, as well as plenty of food for the herds, so it becomes an obvious choice for livestock herders.

Effects of a Bad Harvest on Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan

Some families depend entirely on the land as both a source of income and food. Because of this dependence, when a particularly bad harvest occurs the farming families must either settle for significantly lower selling prices or sell fewer walnuts in favor of keeping more for consumption.

New “Pasture Monitoring” App to Boost Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan

In 2022, in an effort to aid both walnut farmers and livestock herders in protecting their main sources of income, a Kyrgyz environmental protection organization, CAMP Alatoo, created and began the testing of a new app called “Pasture Monitoring.” This app, which functions in English, Kyrgyz and Russian, allows livestock herders to input information and photographs about their pastures.

The app then compiles the data and sends it to a team of experts made up of members of the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Agriculture, the Water Resources and Regional Development of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Design Institute of Land Management. The Pasture Monitoring app also allows environmental experts to send recommendations directly to the herders on how they can individually improve the quality of their pasture. Additionally, government officials can access this information at any point in the future when making decisions regarding the development of these lands on a larger scale.

As livestock herders begin to implement the recommendations of the environmental officials, they will be able to more sustainably allow their herds to graze on their own pastures without needing to utilize the massive walnut grove near Arslanbob. Consequently, walnut farmers will no longer need to worry about livestock encroaching on and damaging their livelihoods. As of October 2022, the new farming app has commenced testing in the Aksy and Bazar-Korgon districts with the goal of boosting agriculture in Kyrgyzstan.

– Chris Dickinson
Photo: Flickr