Filed under: Development Environment Poverty


Keeping Kyrgyzstan beautiful: Read more about how we’re working to ensure Kyrgyzstan ‘paddles in sync

We’ve all heard that sustainability is important.

But when it comes to decision making, many people still think that environmental conservation has little to do with economic or social well-being. If you share this opinion, you might want to take a look at Kyrgyzstan.

In the second-poorest country in Central Asia, the numbers speak volumes:

One-third of the population lives below the poverty line and farming accounts for 40 percent of total employment (70 percent of the poor), while 85 percent of land is exposed to erosion.

Environmental concerns like land erosion and degradation are reducing agricultural output and threatening the livelihoods of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.

This is just one of the many linkages between environmental degradation and poverty. People in Kyrgyzstan are increasingly aware of the need for sustainable development – that is, treating the economy, social affairs, and the environment as one integrated issue.

But changing development patterns is not an easy task.

How do you start?            

Kyrgyz decision makers have realized that sustainability has to be a core part of development planning.

That’s where environmental action comes into play: The importance of ecosystem services for the well-being of society has to be reflected in the country`s political and economic strategies, an approach in line with the Post-2015 consultations and “The Future We Want“:

“We acknowledge the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their interlinkages, so as to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions.”

Our joint Poverty-Environment Initiative is supporting country-led efforts to transform the current economic model.

In this process, engaging a broad range of stakeholders has been proven to be a key factor for success:

In genuinely participatory national consultations, representatives from civil society, government institutions, and UNDP had the opportunity to discuss ways to make sustainability a top policy priority.

Finally, the President of Kyrgyzstan adopted the country’s first National Sustainable Development Strategy. Together with a new government programme on sustainability, these plans will guide the political and economic decisions of the next years.

The commitment of Kyrgyz authorities is already manifesting in institutional changes with the recent establishment of a new Department of Strategic Planning in the Ministry of Economy.

Even though these achievements have long-term implications, there is also progress on the ground.

Our project on the sustainable management of pastures and its subsequent replication proves that poverty and environmental degradation can be addressed together.

Everyone’s dedication to making Kyrgyzstan`s future sustainable has been remarkable so far, we’re excited to see where this goes.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated.


  • Luki

    Hey, this issue is really interesting. I think not many local people link sustainability with economic development. So what i want to know is, how can you sell this idea to the population in Kyrgyzstan? I mean this whole idea looks like it needs a long time to implement in the consisting system.

    • Thomas Siebenbrunner

      Hey Luki, thanks for your comment! You are right, getting the general public on board is crucial, especially in such long-term ambitions.

      In our case, the combination of poverty reduction and environmental conservation efforts has been proven to be very appealing to the general public, because issues we try to address – like falling agricultural output – are really a daily struggle for many people.

      But of course, implementing sustainable solutions at all levels will most likely lead to the opposition of certain interest groups. This is exactly the reason why I think it is so important to get the commitment of the highest political authorities in the country – and also to engage many stakeholders in the process.

    • Mira Djangaracheva

      Dear Luki, Thank you for your question regarding selling the idea to the population. 10-15 years ago the population of the country did not understand the links between poverty and environment. Now, the understanding of the links has increased due to demonstrated contribution of ecosystems services into well-being of the populations- people are seeing these direct benefits on their lives. You can read more about in our study entitled “Poverty and Environment in the Kyrgyz Republic: UNDP Contribution’ (2012) at the website English version is there. In this study, ecosystems services were viewed as a factor influencing well-being of rural population. We agree that time is needed to implement these long-term strategies, but the progress is ongoing.