Rangelands of Central Asia: challenges and opportunities.
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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.