Journal of Arid Land

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 93–108 | Cite as

Rangelands of Central Asia: challenges and opportunities

  • Alisher Mirzabaev
  • Mohamed Ahmed
  • Jutta Werner
  • John Pender
  • Mounir LouhaichiEmail author


Rangelands of Central Asia (referring to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in this study), the largest contiguous area of grazed land in the world, serve as an important source of livelihood for pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in this region. They also play an important role in absorbing CO2 as a global carbon sink. However, unsustainable management of rangelands has led to their degradation hugely by downgrading their potential agro-ecological, environmental and socio-economical roles. This paper reviewed the rangeland degradation in Central Asia, a topic which so far has received only scant coverage in the international scientific literature. It also provided examples of successful experiences and outlined possible options that land managers can adopt to enhance the sustainable management of these vast degraded rangelands. The experiences and lessons described in this paper may also be relevant for other degraded rangeland areas, especially in the developing countries. The causes of rangeland degradation within the Central Asian region are numerous, complex and inter-related. Therefore, while addressing the factors associated with improper rangeland management may shed some light on the causes of rangeland degradation, the scope of this paper would not be all-encompassing for the major causes of degradation. There is a need to develop and widely apply the viable and locally accepted and adapted packages of technical, institutional and policy options for sustainable rangeland management. Incentivizing the collective action of small-scale pastoralists who group together to facilitate access to remote pastures can reduce the degree of overgrazing within community pastures, such as those near the settlements. We also found that migratory grazing through pooling of resources among small-scale pastoralists can increase household income. After their independence, most Central Asian countries adopted various rangeland tenure arrangements. However, the building of enhanced capacities of pasture management and effective local rangeland governance structures can increase the likelihood, which will be sustainable and equitable. Finally, this paper presented several promising technical options, aiming at reversing the trend of rangeland degradation in Central Asia.


rangeland degradation flock mobility overgrazing sustainable rangeland management drylands land tenure 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agropress. 2007. Special Issue Dedicated to the 80th Anniversary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Processing Industry. Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek.Google Scholar
  2. Alimaev I I. 2003. Transhumant ecosystems: fluctuations in seasonal pasture productivity. In: Kerven C. Prospects for Pastoralism in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan: From State Farms to Private Flocks. London: Routledge Curzon, 31–51.Google Scholar
  3. Alimaev I I, Kerven C, Torekhanov A, et al. 2006. The impact of livestock grazing on soils and vegetation around settlements in southeast Kazakhstan. In: Behnke R. The Socio-Economic Causes and Consequences of Desertification in Central Asia. Netherlands: Springer, 81–112.Google Scholar
  4. Annamukhamedov O. 1998. Turkmenistan country report: livestock industry of Turkmenistan. In: Annual Steering Committee Meeting of the CGIAR Program for Central Asia and the Caucasus. Kazakhstan: Almaty.Google Scholar
  5. Ashurmetov O A, Karshibayev Kh K. 2002). Seed Reproduction of Legumes in Arid Zone of Uzbekistan. Tashkent: Fan.Google Scholar
  6. Babu S C, Sengupta D. 2006. Policy reforms and agriculture development in Central Asia: An overview of issues and challenges. In: Babu S C, Djalalov S. Policy Reform and Agriculture Development in Central Asia. New York: Springer, 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Behnke R H. 2003. Reconfiguring property rights in livestock production systems of western Almaty Oblast, Kazakhstan. In: Kerven C K. Prospects for Pastoralism in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan: From State Farms to Private Flocks. London: Routlege and Kegan Paul, 75–107.Google Scholar
  8. Behnke R H. 2008. The drivers of fragmentation in arid and semi-arid landscapes. In: Galvin K A, Reid R S, Behnke R H. Fragmentation in Semi-Arid and Arid Landscapes. Netherlands: Springer, 305–340.Google Scholar
  9. Bekturova G, Romanova S. 2007). Traditional Land Management Knowledge in Central Asia: Resource Pack. Almaty: S-Print, 86.Google Scholar
  10. Blench R, Sommer F. 1999. Understanding rangeland biodiversity. In: Working Paper 121. Overseas Development Institute. London: Chameleon Press, 51.Google Scholar
  11. CACILM (Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management). 2006a. UNCCD National Working Group of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In: Republic of Kazakhstan National Programming Framework.Google Scholar
  12. CACILM (Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management). 2006b. UNCCD National Working Group of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. In: Republic of Kyrgyzstan National Programming Framework.Google Scholar
  13. CACILM (Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management). 2006c. UNCCD National Working Group of the Republic of Tajikistan. In: Republic of Tajikistan National Programming Framework.Google Scholar
  14. CACILM (Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management). 2006d. UNCCD National Working Group of the Republic of Turkmenistan. In: Republic of Turkmenistan National Programming Framework.Google Scholar
  15. CACILM (Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management). 2006e. UNCCD National Working Group of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In: Republic of Uzbekistan National Programming Framework.Google Scholar
  16. CIMMYT-Kazakhstan. 2007. Report on CIMMYT activities in Kazakhstan i. 2007. Kazakhstan: Astana, 27.Google Scholar
  17. De Haan C, Steinfeld H, Blackburn H. 1997). Livestock and the Environment: Finding A Balance. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  18. Dutilly-Diane C, McCarthy N, Turkelboom F, et al. 2007. Could payments for environmental services improve rangeland management in Central Asia, West Asia and North Africa? Washington, DC: The CGIAR Systemwide Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRI). [2015-03-01]. Scholar
  19. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2003. Fertilizer Use by Crop in Uzbekistan. Land and Plant Nutrition Management Service. Rome: FAO. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  20. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2007. Subregional Report On Animal Genetic Resources: Central Asia. Annex to The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: FAO. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  21. FAOSTAT. 2008. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), FAOSTAT Database. Rome: FAO. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  22. Farrington J D. 2005. De-development in Eastern Kyrgyzstan and persistence of semi-nomadic livestock herding. Nomadic Peoples, 9(1–3): 171–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fitzherbert A. 2000). Kyrgyzstan: Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  24. Fleskens L, Ataev A, Mamedov B, et al. 2007. Desert water harvesting from Takyr surfaces: assessing the potential of traditional and experimental technologies in the Karakum. Land Degradation & Development, 18(1): 17–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gintzburger G. 2004. Agriculture and rangelands in Middle Asian Countries. In: Ryan J, Vlek P, Paroda R. Agriculture in Central Asia: Research for Development. Syria: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), 154–175.Google Scholar
  26. Gintzburger G, Saïdi S, Soti V. 2009. Rangelands of the Ravnina region in the Karakum Desert (Turkmenistan): current condition and utilisation. In: Sustainable Agriculture in Central Asia and the Caucasus Series: CGIAR-PFU, 2. Tashkent: CGIAR-PFU, 1–98.Google Scholar
  27. Gupta R, Kienzler K, Martius C, et al. 2009. Research prospectus: a vision for sustainable land management research in Central Asia. ICARDA Central Asia and Caucasus Program. Sustainable Agriculture in Central Asia and the Caucasus Series No. 1. Tashkent: CGIAR-PFU, 1–84.Google Scholar
  28. Han J G, Zhang Y J, Wang C J, et al. 2008. Rangeland degradation and restoration management in China. The Rangeland Journal, 30(2): 233–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas). 2001. Integrated feed and livestock production in the steppes of Central Asia. In: IFAD Technical Assistance Grant: ICARDA-425 Annual Report (2000–2001). Syria: ICARDA, 1–161.Google Scholar
  30. ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas). 2002. Integrated feed and livestock production in the steppes of Central Asia. In: IFAD Technical Assistance Grant: ICARDA-425 Annual Report (2001–2002). Syria: ICARDA, 1–207.Google Scholar
  31. Iñiguez L. 1999. Helping hands to put sheep back on their feet. ICARDA Caravan, 10: 11–15.Google Scholar
  32. Iñiguez L, Suleimenov M, Yusupov S, et al. 2004. Livestock production in Central Asia: Constraints and research opportunities. In: Ryan J, Vlek P and Paroda R. Agriculture in Central Asia: Research for Development. Syria: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), 278–301.Google Scholar
  33. Jacobo E J, Rodríguez A M, Bartoloni N, et al. 2006. Rotational grazing effects on rangeland vegetation at a farm scale. Rangeland Ecology and Management, 59(3): 249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jones A. 2007. Environment and health in rural Kazakhstan: linking agricultural policy and natural resource management to rural welfare. In: Pinstrup-Andersen P, Cheng F Z. Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies. New York: Cornell University. [2015-04-20]. 1200428191&view=body&content-type=pdf_1#.Google Scholar
  35. Kendirbai G. 2002). Land and People: The Russian Colonisation of the Kazak Steppe. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.Google Scholar
  36. Kerven C, Alimaev I I, Behnke R, et al. 2004. Retraction and expansion of flock mobility in Central Asia: costs and consequences. African Journal of Range & Forage Science, 21(3): 159–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kerven C. 2006). Review of the literature on pastoral economics and marketing: Central Asian, China, Mongolia and Siberia. Report prepared for the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism, IUCN EARO. Odessa Centre Ltd., UK. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  38. Kerven C, Steimann B, Ashley L, et al. 2011. Pastoralism and farming in Central Asia’s mountains: a research review. In: MSRC Background Paper No. 1. Kyrgyzstan University of Central Asia, Mountain Societies Research Centre, Bishkek, 65.Google Scholar
  39. Kharin N. 2002. Vegetation Degradation in Central Asia under the Impact of Human Activities. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kulov S. 2007). Total Economic Valuation of Kyrgyzstan Pastoralism. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  41. Lamers J P A, Bobojonov I, Khamzina A, et al. 2008. Financial analysis of small-scale forests in the amu darya lowlands of rural Uzbekistan. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods, 18(4): 373–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lamers J P A, Khamzina A. 2008. Fuelwood production in the degraded agricultural areas of the Aral Sea Basin, Uzbekistan. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, 297(3): 43–53.Google Scholar
  43. Larbi A, Khatib-Salkini A, Bolus Jamal P, et al. 2008. Shrub yield and fodder quality variations in a non-tropical dryland environment in West Asia. Agroforestry Systems, 75(2): 147–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Le Q B, Nkonya E, Mirzabaev A. 2014. Biomass productivity-based mapping of global land degradation hotspots. In: ZEF–Discussion Papers on Development Policy No. 193. Center for Development Research, Bonn, 57.Google Scholar
  45. Lerman Z. 2008. Agricultural development in Uzbekistan: the effect of ongoing reforms. In: Discussion paper No. 7.08. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  46. Li X L, Gao J, Brierley G, et al. 2011. Rangeland degradation on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau: implications for rehabilitation. Land Degradation and Development, 24(1): 72–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Longmire J, Moldashev A. 1999. Changing competitiveness of the wheat sector of Kazakhstan and sources of future productivity growth. In: Working Paper 99-06. CIMMYT, Mexico. [2015-04-20]. 7667/1/wp99lo01.pdf.Google Scholar
  48. Louhaichi M, Johnson M D, Woerz A L, et al. 2010. Digital charting technique for monitoring rangeland vegetation cover at local scale. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology, 12(3): 406–410.Google Scholar
  49. Louhaichi M, Chand K, Misra A K, et al. 2013a. Livestock mobility to cope with global climate change in the state of Rajasthan. Journal of Arid Land Studies, 24(1): 61–64.Google Scholar
  50. Louhaichi M, Nubekov A, Madaminov A, et al. 2013b. The influence of geo-morphological landscape patterns on vegetation characteristics in Central Asia grasslands. In: Michalk D L, Millar G D, Badgery W B, et al. Proceeding of the 22nd International Grassland Congress: Revitalising Grasslands to Sustain Our Communities. Australia: New South Wales Department of Primary Industry, 860–862.Google Scholar
  51. Maas E V. 1993. Testing crops for salinity tolerance. In: Maranville J W, Ba Iigar B V, Duncan R R, et al. Proceedings of the Workshop on Adaptation of Plants to Soil Stresses. Lincoln, University of Nebraska: INTSORMIL Publisher, 234–247.Google Scholar
  52. Milner-Gulland E J, Kerven C, Behnke R, et al. 2006. A multi-agent system model of pastoralist behaviour in Kazakhstan. Ecological Complexity, 3(1): 23–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mirzabaev A, Le Q B, Dubovyk O, et al. 2015. Economics of land degradation and improvement in Central Asia. In: Nkonya E, Mirzabaev A, Von Braun J. Global Assessment of The Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement. Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  54. Munyao K, Barrett C B. 2007. Decentralization of pastoral resources management and its effects on environmental degradation and poverty: experience from northern Kenya. In: Barrett C B, Mude A G, Omiti J M. Decentralization and the Social Economics of Development: Lessons from Kenya. United Kingdom: CAB International, 97–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mwangi E. 2009. Property rights and governance of Africa’s rangelands: a policy overview. Natural Resources Forum, 33(2): 160–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Orlovsky L, Dourikov M, Babaev A. 2004. Temporal dynamics and productivity of biogenic soil crusts in the central Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan. Journal of Arid Environments, 56(4): 579–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Orlovsky L, Orlovsky N, Durdyev A. 2005. Dust storms in Turkmenistan. Journal of Arid Environments, 60(1): 83–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Oweis T Y, Hachum A Y. 2003. Improving water productivity in the dry areas of West Asia and North Africa. In: Kijne J W, Barker R, Molden D. Water Productivity in Agriculture: Limits and Opportunities for Improvement. United Kingdom: CAB International, 179–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Perevolotsky A, Seligman N A G. 1998. Role of grazing in Mediterranean rangeland ecosystems. BioScience, 48(12): 1007–1017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robinson S. 2000). Pastoralism and land degradation in Kazakhstan. PhD Dissertation. Warwick: Warwick University, 341.Google Scholar
  61. Robinson S, Milner-Gulland E J. 2003. Contraction in livestock mobility resulting from state farm re-organisation. In: Kerven C. Prospects for Pastoralism in Kazakstan and Turkmenistan: From State Farms to Private Flocks. London: Taylor & Francis, 128–145.Google Scholar
  62. Robinson S. 2007. Pasture management and condition in Gorno-Badakhshan: a case study. In: Report on Research Conducted for the Aga Khan Foundation. Aga Khan Foundation, Tajikistan, 45.Google Scholar
  63. Robinson S, Wiedemann C, Michel S, et al. 2012. Pastoral tenure in Central Asia: theme and variation in the five former Soviet Republics. In: Squires V. Rangeland Stewardship in Central Asia: Balancing Improved Livelihoods, Biodiversity Conservation and Land Protection. Netherlands: Springer, 239–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rowe W C. 2011. Turning the Soviet Union into Iowa: the virgin lands program in the Soviet Union. In: Brunn S D. Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects. Netherlands: Springer, 237–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Shigaeva J, Kollmair M, Niederer P, et al. 2007. Livelihoods in transition: changing land use strategies and ecological implications in a post-Soviet setting (Kyrgyzstan). Central Asian Survey, 26(3): 389–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Solomon T B, Snyman H A, Smit G N. 2007. Cattle-rangeland management practices and perceptions of pastoralists towards rangeland degradation in the Borana zone of southern Ethiopia. Journal of Environmental Management, 82(4): 481–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Suleimenov M. 2000. Trends in feed and livestock production during the transition period in three Central Asian countries. In: Babu S, Tashmatov A. Food Policy Reforms in Central Asia: Setting the Research Priorities. Washington, DC: IFPRI, 91–104.Google Scholar
  68. Suleimenov M, Oram P. 2000. Trends in feed, livestock production, and rangelands during the transition period in three Central Asian countries. Food Policy, 25(6): 681–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Suleimenov M, Thomas R. 2007. Central Asia: Ecosystems and carbon sequestration challenges. In: Lal R, Suleimenov M, Stewart B A, et al. Climate Change and Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration in Central Asia. London: Taylor & Francis Group, 165–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Suttie J M, Reynolds S G. 2003. Transhumant grazing systems in temperate Asia. In: Plant Production and Protection Series No. 31. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). [2015-04-20]. 006/y4856e/y4856e00.HTM.Google Scholar
  71. Suzuki K. 2003. Sustainable and Environmentally Sound Land Use in Rural Areas with Special Attention to Land Degradation. An Issue Paper. In: Asia-Pacific Forum of Environment and Development Expert Meeting. Guilin, China. [2014-03-02]. Scholar
  72. Toderich K, Tsukatani T, Mardonov B K, et al. 2002. Water quality, cropping and small ruminants: a challenge for the future agriculture in dry areas of Uzbekistan. In: Discussion Paper No. 553. Institute of Economic Research, Kyoto University. Kyoto, Japan. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  73. Toderich K, Tsukatani T, Shoaib I, et al. 2008a. Extent of salt-affected land in Central Asia: Biosaline agriculture and utilization of salt-affected resources. In: Discussion Paper No. 648. Institute of Economic Research, Kyoto University. Kyoto, Japan. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  74. Toderich K N, Ismail S, Juylova E A, et al. 2008b. New approaches for biosaline agriculture development, management and conservation of sandy desert ecosystems. In: Abdelly C, Öztürk M, Ashraf M, et al. Biosaline Agriculture and Salinity Tolerance in Plants. Switzerland: Birkhäuser Basel, 247–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. van Veen T W S. 1995. The Kyrgyz sheep herders at a crossroads. In: Pastoral Development Network Series 38. [2015-04-20]. Scholar
  76. van Veen T W S, Alimaev I I, Utkelov B. 2005. Kazakhstan: rangelands in transition the resource, the users, and sustainable use. In: World Bank Technical Paper. Europe and Central Asia Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Series. [2015-04-20]. 09_20050415160011/Rendered/PDF/313840PAPER0EN10rangelands01public1.pdf.Google Scholar
  77. Wilson R T. 1997. Livestock, pastures, and the environment in Kyrgyz Republic, Central Asia. Mountain Research and Development, 17(1): 57–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Winckler G, Kleinn E, Breckle S-W. 2012. The Aralkum situation under climate change related to its broader regional context. In: Breckle S-W, Wucherer W, Dimeyeva L A, et al. Aralkum–a Man-Made Desert: The Desiccated Floor of the Aral Sea (Central Asia), Ecological Studies. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 431–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. World Bank. 2007). Kyrgyz Republic-Livestock Sector Review: Embracing the new challenges. Washington, DC: World Bank, 101.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Springer - Verlag GmbH 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alisher Mirzabaev
    • 1
  • Mohamed Ahmed
    • 2
  • Jutta Werner
    • 3
  • John Pender
    • 4
  • Mounir Louhaichi
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Development ResearchUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Monitoring African Food and Agricultural Policies, Agricultural Development Economics DivisionFood and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsRomeItaly
  3. 3.Diversification and Sustainable Intensification of Production Systems ProgramInternational Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry AreasAmmanJordan
  4. 4.Farm and Rural Household Well-being Branch, Economic Research ServiceUnited States Department of AgricultureWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations