GEF: Restoring land productivity in Kazakhstan's small villages
hrough the GEF's Small Grants Programme, a project in Kazakhstan assisted local farmers with reestablishment of traditional agricultual practices lost with the fall of the Soviet Union. The project, called the Shiyen Public Fund, established a number of important initiatives. First, villagers were able to combine their cattle and hire professional shepherds to herd them to distant pasture areas. Second, with project support, local experts have trained the villagers on traditional methods of seasonal pasture management to sustain the productivity of the pasturelands and hayfields. Finally, beekeeping was introduced as part of the project. Villagers now supplement their income from selling honey, and bees aid the growth of sainfoin and crops around it through pollination.
As the world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan possesses a diversity of natural landscapes, including vast mountain ranges and steppes where semi-nomadic people living in pastoral villages bring their cattle to graze. Seasonal pastoral practices, a mainstay in the village of Shiyen during the Soviet era, fell to the wayside with its collapse. This led to overgrazing, erosion, and desertification of pasturelands near the village. Eventually, the reduced value of Shiyen’s underfed livestock translated to negative impacts on the local economy.