Reforestation in Jalal-Abad brings food-insecure families food, protection from environmental shocks and hopes for better incomes. Photo: WFP/Alima Nurgazieva
Years of deforestation have left communities like that of Shaidan village in Kyrgyzstan’s southwestern Jalal-Abad province suffering from environmental degradation and limited agriculture. Thousands of hectares of thicket that had once protected communities from natural disasters such as landslides have shrunk alarmingly due to uncontrolled felling of trees for heating and construction. Now, with help of cash assistance from WFP the residents are working to expand their forests and protect their livelihoods.
Jalal-Abad, KYRGYZSTAN - Crouched in the searing afternoon heat, groups of women patiently plant almond and cherry seedlings in the tree nursery of Toskool-Ata, a state-owned forestry farm in Jalal-Abad. After almost two months of shoveling and attending to the soil to protect seedlings, the women of Shaidan village wear happy smiles. Their reforestation work will be finished soon, bringing them food and hopes for better incomes.
Kursunai Gaparova is among more than 3,600 people who benefit from the reforestation project, jointly implemented by WFP and the Kyrgyz Association of Forests and Land, a local NGO. The project, which provides thousands of food-insecure families with temporary jobs, aims to expand mountainous forests in areas prone to avalanches, mudflows and landslides.
It is part of WFP’s Cash-for-Work programme which provides immediate needs to vulnerable families while helping them work towards their longer-term food security.
Almost one million trees – spruce, nuts and fruit – will be planted in Jalal-Abad until the end of June, making it one of the largest reforestation efforts in Kyrgyzstan over the last decade.
“Work in tree nurseries is extremely labourious as we have to accurately sift the soil, pre-condition the seedbeds to ensure adequate sun exposure and prepare them for seed or seedling planting, prepare the seeds, and so on,” says Gaparova. “But we are proud of our work. These trees will grow and bring us prosperity.”
Forests Of Hope
Thousands of food-insecure people, including women-headed households, received training in basic reforestation activities such as cultivating seeds. The project allows them to benefit from protected soil, improved agriculture and new knowhow for the cultivation of quick-growing and income-generating fruit trees.
Akylbek Arzygulov, head of Toskool-Ata forestry, shares Gaparova’s hopes for protected and stable futures.
“We are attempting to address deforestation through the creation of tree nurseries and increased tree planting in Jalal-Abad,” said Arzygulov. “But we are so severely understaffed that it makes it impossible to guard the forests and plant trees at the same time.”
The project is a step towards a more sustainable future, and its impact on the lives of Shaidan community is already being felt in terms of better nutrition and increased resilience towards environmental shocks.
“One can hardly think of a better initiative that would so perfectly address food insecurity, unmitigated natural disasters, deforestation and community mobilization at the same time,” said Arzygulov.