Both shifting cultivation and pastoralism are essential production systems because they are a living reservoir of adaptive genes. For many traditional populations devoted to such livelihoods, mobility is still perceived as a prerequisite for conserving agrobiodiversity and animals breeds. On the other hand, governments, as well as some conservation organizations alike, tend to associate mobility with uncertainty, poverty, lack of technical skill and, overall, with a precarious life-style: “an endlessly roaming around in search of food”.
As a result, in many southern countries, resettlement schemes are implemented as adjoining strategies to poverty eradication. Moreover, large-scale mining, commercial logging, biofuel and oil-palm plantations further contribute to forcefully sedentarize mobile communities, displacing them from their ancestral territories. Starting from 2009, through a Christensen Fund (TCF) grant to the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD) of the University of Kent, an attempt has been made to foster communication amongst indigenous communities across regions on perceived common themes. To pursue this objective, Dr. Dario Novellino (principal investigator of the CBCD project) has worked in close collaboration with other volunteers and researchers, such as Dr. Valentina de Marchi.
In the project’s second phase (Spring/Summer 2011), additional steps will be made in the planning of future exchanges amongst different Kyrgyz communities, which have been separated by international boundaries over long periods of time. Each of them, in their respective host nations, has developed its own counter-strategies for preserving mobility and pastoralist traditions. Our preliminary findings indicate that different Kyrgyz communities are now found in China (Xinjiang, Wuquia, Akqi, Akto, Tekes, Zhaosu, Beicheng, Wushi regions), Tajikistan (Pamir), Turkey (Van e Kars province), Afghanistan (Pamir and Badakhshan) and Altai region (in Russia and Kazak countries). To begin with, the project aims at establishing audio-visual exchanges between those pastoralist communities found in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Northeast Turkey. Such exchanges will focus on issues that will be regarded as relevant by the traditional custodians themselves, such as breeding and livestock knowledge, cultural loss, innovation and adaptation processes. Some of these activities will be carried out in partnership with other TCF grantees such as the Rural Development Fund (RDF).
by Dario Novellino and Valentina De Marchi
Photo credits: Valentina De Marchi and Dario Novellino