Pastoralism and Farming in Central Asia's Mountains: A Research Review
This paper reviews and discusses the distinctive characteristics of mountain agro-pastoralism in Central Asia. Opening with a discussion of past and present research directions on this topic, the paper proceeds to outline the background to farming and raising livestock in the mountains. We then summarize key findings which are relevant to understanding where, how and why people practice agro-pastoralism in the mountains of Kaza- khstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These sub-topics include the biophysical, agricultural, climatic, governance and socio-economic aspects of the material, social and political environments within which agro-pastoralism is carried out in these regions. We consider the limitations which have arisen in the last two decades, as well as noting fresh opportunities.
We conclude the paper by proposing that new research should critically assess several current orthodoxies – strong conventional beliefs - through conducting field-based studies. More empirical and long-term research will yield practical applications to improve conditions for Central Asian mountain agro-pastoralists and their environment.
These proposed research topics include:
- Inventorying the impact of the many pasture management interventions and messages from development programmes in Central Asia in the past 20 years.
- Identifying the scientific basis (if any) for these interventions and messages.
- Empirically measuring the multiple, interacting causes and feedback effects of land degradation, including changes in soil, vegetation, climate, and animal populations – both livestock and wildlife.
- Analyzing existing and new data on the social and economic effects of decentralizing the power to al- locate and manage pastures to local communities; and of privatizing arable and pasture land and other means of production.