Looking inside the Dordoi bazaar

by Philippe Rudaz

Stuck between China and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan is located in one of the main arteries of globalization. The Dordoi bazaar in the outskirts of Bishkek is absorbing all kind of goods, most of them from China, and reselling them to Russian, Kazak and Kyrgyz intermediaries or retail clients. The bazaar is a giant maze, made of approximately 40’000 containers with alleys that can stretch along 1 kilometer. Continue reading

Soviet Frunze – a Centre of Space Research?

by Mohira Suyarkulova
When one strolls along the streets of Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, it never registers that this city was once a centre for space research. A modest building on Toktogul Street, which is now home to textile sweatshops, once housed a unique institution with a long cryptic abbreviated name – OKB IKI AN SSSR (Особое конструкторское бюро Института космических исследований Академии наук СССР), which when translated from Russian stands for “Special design bureau of the Institute of space research of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR”. Continue reading

IS in Central Asia: A Myth?

by Gulrano Ataeva

Gulrano AtaevaSince I hail from Osh, which is known as one of the most religious cities in Kyrgyzstan, the news stories about hundreds of men and women from Central Asia leaving for jihad in Syria make me wonder what these news stories have to do with my own city? Since Central Asia is repeatedly portrayed as a fertile ground for religious extremism in both local and Western media, it is worth to have a look at how Islam is actually lived by those who are too often collectively suspected to conspire with extremist movements such as IS. Continue reading

Involving Communities in Pasture Management: The Challenge of Pasture Committees in Kyrgyzstan

by Irène Mestre

Irene MestreWhen I arrived in Kyrgyzstan to investigate pasture management in July 2010, the new Law “On Pastures” had been in place for only just over a year (it was released on January 29, 2009). During summer 2010, the content of the new pastoral regulation was hardly known by pasture users, or by governmental and local self-governance employees (ayil okmotu, equivalent to municipalities). That was only a few months after the 2010 protests which overthrew President Bakiev and tensions around this so-called “Bakiev’s Law” were perceptible. After years of centralized management, the law aimed at implementing a community-based management of pastures. At the village level (ayil ayimak), all pasture users are members of the Pasture Users Association (PUA) and elect the Pasture Committee (PC). This is the executive body in charge of managing, allocating and monitoring pastures. It collects pasture use fees and manages its own budget. Part of it, the land tax, is transferred to the central budget as pastures are state property. The new law carries environmental, economic, and social expectations: the degradation of pastures underpinned the promotion of this model and made sustainable management essential. The law also intended to improve social equity by ensuring equal access to all pasture users and to foster long term economic benefits by preserving resources for livestock production. Continue reading

Who Is Benefiting from the New Pasture Management Reform in Kyrgyzstan?

by Ulan Kasymov

KasymovRearing livestock has always been a vital part of life according to the ancient nomadic traditions of Kyrgyzstan. Despite the slow but steady encroachment of modernity this still remains true for the majority of rural communities today. Many households rely on livestock as part of their livelihood, but as the number of hooves multiply, so do the problems associated with poor pasture management. Pastures close to villages are overgrazed, and remote summer pastures are often underutilized because of decaying infrastructure and their remoteness. Such coordination problems, partially a symptom of the Soviet Union’s collapse, are being tackled through a variety of measures since the pasture legislation reform was introduced in 2009. Yet, reforms need to be undertaken with caution as changes to the laws that govern pasture management can have a serious impact on the way pastures are locally negotiated, allocated and how disputes are resolved. Continue reading