Asel Murzakulova, University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic); Judith Niederberger, Caritas Switzerland, Switzerland
Central Asia, and especially Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are characterized by a high rate of rural population, the importance of agricultural and pastoral activities for the economy and the subsistence of rural communities. After the demise of the Soviet Union the region went through a dramatic decrease in agricultural productivity. Since gaining their independence in 1991, the newly independent states of Central Asia have initiated large-scale reforms in the agricultural sector and in the natural resources stewardship system to shift from the Soviet system of central management to a hybrid system based on the partial devolution of management to rural communities. Nonetheless, despite the 25 years of reforms, these states are still struggling to introduce inclusive and efficient systems of natural resource management. Agricultural productivity has fallen dramatically in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Both countries have witnessed sectarian violence. Post-conflict reconstruction, justice and social inclusion are yet to be integrated into the management of natural resources in these states These issues become particularly worrisome, since discourses on access to and use of limited natural resources can contribute to triggering conflict among communities divide local communities along the ethnic lines.
Addressing sustainable development in this context implies, as the session conveners argue, a nexus-approach, linking direct tangible socio-economic benefits for the population with long-term management of natural resources. Based on this assumption, Caritas Switzerland’s programme in Tajikistan pivots around the nexus of food, water and energy supply (direct benefits) using a sustainable land and water management lens (overarching, longer term perspective). Besides community- and watershed-based implementation the links to policy dialogue and advocacy are continuously strengthened, generating local evidence that can inform decision makers and national administration towards more sustainable and interconnected policies in the thematic areas at hand.
The experience of the University of Central Asia (UCA) in the region also confirms the value of such an approach. UCA was established in 2000 to foster the socio-economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain societies, while helping the people of the region preserve and draw upon their rich cultural heritages as assets for the future. Founded by the Presidents of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan, UCA seeks to contribute leadership, ideas, and innovations to the transitioning economies and communities of the region, bringing with it the commitment and partnership of the broader Aga Khan Development Network.
Accordingly, this session will also examine contextual factors of institutional transformation in the domain of natural resource management through the prism of UCA’s experience of applied research in cross-border areas of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The session will discuss the role of the new institutions of natural resource management that have started to develop in both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, such as Water Users Associations, Pasture Committees etc., and their impact on sustainable management of natural resources. As illustrated by Caritas Switzerland’s programme in Tajikistan and others, Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) is a large field strongly influenced by the New Institutional Economics. Although extensive research has shed the light on the conditions under which a more robust management can be developed, the question of conflict and concurrence among and between CBNRM institutions has not been explored in-depth yet. Research on conflict dynamics reveals cooperation and communication modalities among CBNRM institutions, and with institutions at higher levels. Institutions at national level can be involved in conflictual situations and their ability to support and to recognize the right of communities can be challenged.
Using posters and rotating stations, the session presents different institutions and approaches for sustainable use and management of natural resources as well as their interplay across scales and administrative levels.