[English] Stories of Jamilya Mambetkerimova and Burul Mayrambek kyzy – participants in one initiative

Featured image: Burul Mayrambek kyzy is making a presentation during a study tour in Bokonbaev village

CAG’s partnership with ISDS focuses on local communities and decision-makers in Son-Kul to build their capacity with respect to effective use, management, and preservation of natural resources. Burul Mayrambek kyzy and Jamilya Mambetkerimova, participants in the project, shared their experiences with us, providing insights into how this initiative has sparked positive changes within their communities and illustrating the importance of collective action in tackling environmental challenges.

Jamilya Mambetkerimova is 47 years old, has six children, and is a deputy of the local council in the Ormon-Khan rural municipality. She is a village eco-activist living in the village of Kok-Zhar. Since 2022, Jamilya has held the position of chairperson of the Pasture Users Union of the Ormon-Khan rural municipality. She has actively participated in project activities including trainings, meetings, and other events aimed at the conservation and protection of the pilot Son-Kul Lake area.

Jamilya (in the middle) during a study tour

According to Jamilya, “Since 2003, my family has been involved in livestock farming, and during this period, I have noticed that people do not care about the environment at all. I observe that the pastures are deteriorating every year, with grass diminishing and bare patches increasing. In my opinion, over the past 20 years, the livestock population has grown more than 15 times, particularly with a significant increase in the number of yaks. They cause great damage to pastures because they graze year-round without allowing the land to rest, eating plants down to the roots. I have also noticed that in recent years, the climate has changed significantly and become unstable. This year, because the winter was long and the spring was dry, our farmers suffered great economic losses, many livestock died, and feed prices doubled.

“To my surprise, local authorities and villagers do not pay much attention to the degradation of pastures, the reduction of plants, birds, and wild animals, or climate change. They are not taking measures to reduce the number of livestock and improve pastures to adapt to climate change. Maybe they simply don’t have enough information about environmental issues and climate change, much like was the case with me.

“In the last two years, I have begun to work as a head of the Pasture Users Union of Ormon-Khan rural municipality, and I am a deputy of the local council. Thanks to participation in trainings, seminars, study tours and other events conducted by ISDS, I have learned more about the problems and challenges of Son-Kul Lake, environmental rights, adaptation practices to climate change, and ecotourism development.

“Today, we have established the ‘Save Son-Kul’ initiative group, which includes more than 26 people from three pilot rural municipalities (Ormon-Khan, Cholpon, and Sary-Bulak). We have also created a WhatsApp group to facilitate better communication among the initiative group members, where we can exchange news, suggestions, and ideas on environmental issues and ways of solving the problems facing Son-Kul Lake. Participation in this group has enabled us to be in constant touch. Thanks to the project, we have become more actively engaged in addressing challenges and issues related to environment protection of our region. For example, on behalf of our ‘Save Son-Kul’ initiative group, we jointly developed and sent an appeal letter to the head of authorities of the Kochkor district. In the letter, we raised issues such as poor roads and bridges in Son-Kul, the need for inventory and seasonal rotation of pastures, as well as livestock accounting/stocktaking.

“Thanks to the project, we have become more actively engaged in addressing challenges and issues related to environment protection of our region.”

“Thanks to our participation in the project and the training sessions, the youth of the village of Kok-Zhar in the Ormon-Khan rural municipality raised concerns about the increasing number of yaks kept on the pastures of Son-Kul Lake year-round, significantly influencing pasture degradation. We created a commission and conducted a yak count, which revealed that more than 2,700 yaks graze on the pastures. This exceeds the recommended capacity and load standards by 96%. On behalf of the youth committee of Kok-Zhar, we wrote an appeal letter to the head of authorities of the Kochkor district, signed by over 460 fellow villagers, who asked for help in resolving this issue.”

Burul Mayrambek kyzy lives in the village of Tolok in the Sary-Bulak rural municipality. She works as a teacher at a local school where she is responsible for a pre-school multimedia center. She is also an environmental activist and takes active part in the protection of pilot areas in Son-Kul.

Burul (on the right) during a training

Reflecting on her engagement with ISDS, Burul said, ”Since 2022, I have been actively involved in trainings, workshops, study tours, and other events of the ISDS project. Thanks to this, I have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of preserving biodiversity, as well as the existing environmental problems in our region and the country as a whole, along with ways of solving these issues.

“In order to raise awareness about the environmental problems of Son-Kul Lake among the wider public, including residents of our communities, I, together with volunteers of our media center and researchers, created a podcast about birds, plants, pastures, and wetlands of Son-Kul Lake, as well as materials addressing the challenges facing the lake, such as pasture degradation and the increasing numbers of livestock, especially yaks. These yaks graze on Son-Kul pastures year-round, depleting the grass and leaving behind bare pastures.

“As part of the project, our local school started cooperation with the Karatal-Zhapyryk Nature Reserve. Together with their employees, they held drawing competitions and quests called ‘My Ecological Habits.’ Thanks to these events, schoolchildren learn more about nature and the importance of preserving the environment.

“This year, our village held the ‘Son-Kul Birds: Protect the Mountain Goose’ Festival organized by ISDS, which became a platform where activists and schoolchildren tried to convey the environmental problems of Son-Kul to the local community. Thanks to participation in the festival and other events held by ISDS, residents of the village of Tolok have begun taking a more active part in village meetings on planning and pasture use, as well as in counting domestic animals. Many farmers have begun purchasing pedigree cattle, indicating a shift from focusing on the quantity of animals to improving their quality (breed). However, among the local population, there are unscrupulous shepherds who acquire livestock from other rural municipalities, thereby increasing the burden on our pastures. Local activists are trying to work with these people to reduce pasture degradation.

“In October, I took part in the Gender Action Learning System training, where gender stereotypes and attitudes related to income-generating activities and the use of natural resources were discussed. I also participated in a training on writing a business plan, and as part of the project, I applied for a competition supporting alternative activities, as opposed to livestock farming. My business plan received support. As of today, we have purchased 100 local Kyrgyz breed chickens, which are well-suited for our climate and mountainous region. In the future, our family plans to transition from livestock farming to poultry farming, in order to cause less harm to the environment and our pastures.”

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