School event in Kyzyl-Unkur school. Credit: FFI

Educating the next generation of tree conservationists in Central Asia

Posted on by Sarah Pocock

 

The fruit & nut forests of Central Asia are the origin of many of our favourite foods – the wild ancestors of apples, walnuts, apricots, almonds and more grow in these remote landscapes. But habitat loss and degradation threaten the future of these important species, many of which are at risk of extinction.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in Central Asia since the mid 2000s, to protect important forest areas in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This is in partnership with local government and non-governmental organisations as well as communities. Through the Global Trees Campaign, we have focused our efforts on conserving threatened apple and pear species by reducing threats to adult trees, fencing land to protect naturally regenerating seedlings and planting trees where numbers are very low. But in order for these efforts to be sustained in the long term, we recognise the need to educate and motivate younger generations to care for their local forests.

View over Childukhtaron Reserve, Tajikistan. Credit: David Gill/FFI

View over Childukhtaron Reserve, Tajikistan. Credit: David Gill/FFI

Artistic inspiration from Tajikistan

In Tajikistan’s Childukhtaron and Dashtijum reserves, the project has educated more than 750 schoolchildren in the different environmental, social and economic values of the forest. We ran essay and painting competitions to encourage the children to express their own thoughts on the impacts of climate change on threatened trees and forest diversity.

Awarded second place for her essay, Sayora Odinahmad from Dashtijum School highlighted the impacts of climate change on the level of harvested fruits and nuts from the forest: “Within the last three years, the impact of the climate has been significant on the level of the harvested fruits. In 2018, due to heavy snow most of the fruit trees did not give proper harvest. In 2019, the snow was lesser in the mountains and consequently the harvest was much richer in comparison to 2018. In 2020, due to unexpected snow during the blossoming season of the trees and the sudden cold weather the flowers of the trees were frozen and it led to lesser harvest in autumn. Based on my observation, the unexpected and sudden changes in the weather is affecting the level of harvest of our fruits and nuts trees in the forest.”

Alijon Safarov, one of the competition winners from Childukhtaron School, also emphasised the pressures that humans put on the environment: “Apart from the climate change negative impact, human factors also affected these species to almost disappear from the forest. For protecting and conserving these tree species and the forest in general, every resident is responsible and has to take care of the trees. First of all the conservation actions must start from the schools and all teachers and students must take actions not only towards protection of the existed forest but also creating new forest by planting more trees.”

A student's painting showing a healthy fruit-and-nut forest system. Credit: FFI

A student’s painting showing a healthy fruit-and-nut forest system. Credit: FFI

Fun and games from Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, the FFI team has developed a board game on sustainable natural resource management to share with four schools in the country’s Ferghana Valley region. So far, over 100 schoolchildren have taken on the challenge…

Armed with a map and 100 units of funding, each team nominates members to act as director of forestry units and village government chief. Within each group, leaders discuss their needs according to the composition of their plots, each representing different habitat types. There is the opportunity to purchase cards representing various trees, livestock and crops. The task is then to balance planting trees and grazing livestock on pastures. Profits and losses are scored including pest outbreaks, diseases or other negative impacts. After three or four rounds (or ‘seasons’), results are calculated to determine the winning team. Many of the children playing will grow up to own their own plot within the fruit and nut forest. The hope is that this game will sow the seeds for more sustainable future forest management.

Board game on sustainable natural resources management. Credit: FFI

Board game on sustainable natural resources management. Credit: FFI

Written by Sarah Pocock

Sarah is the Programme Officer for Plant Conservation at FFI. With an MSc in biodiversity conservation and a background in plant science, Sarah is keen to get people excited about botanical conservation.

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