MSRI Public Lecture: Political Ecology of the Walnut-Fruit Forests in Kyrgyzstan
18 August 2017, 10:00
Dr Matthias Schmidt
Institute for Geography, University of Augsburg, Germany
Natural resources such as water, pastures and forests play a significant role within the livelihood strategies of Kyrgyzstan’s rural population. Utilisation and management of natural resources as well as connected property rights changed considerably in the course of time which will be shown by the example of the unique walnut-fruit forests of the Ferghana Range. These scarce but valuable forests are esteemed for their vital role in erosion control and balancing the water cycle, for delivering forestry goods such as timber, nuts and fruits, as genetic pool to rear species with favourable attributes, and for their recreational functions. The value and uniqueness of the forests were perceived already under Russian Tsarist colonial rule resulting in the establishment of specific management and protection regulations. During the Soviet era, the forests were handled accordingly in a strict top-down approach with the local population involved only in carrying out orders to fulfill plans drawn by superior bureaucrats. As result of the political and socioeconomic transformations in 1991, most people lost their formal employment and had to develop new livelihood strategies in which the forests play a major role. Economic liberalisations offer chances for income generation to the local population but also threaten the very existence of the forests: extensive pasturing, firewood extraction and illegal timber cutting lead to serious degradation. Additionally, the weak governing forest institutions are an obstacle for sustainable ecological and economic development. Based on a political ecology approach, the lecture explores the interrelations between Kyrgyzstan’s walnut-fruit forests and mountain societies as consequence of the Soviet legacy and current globalization processes. The lecture will also discuss issues and challenges for a post-socialist political ecology.
Dr Matthias Schmidt is a Full-Professor for Human Geography and Resource Strategies at the Institute of Geography, Augsburg University since 2015. He is also a guest lecturer at the Université Joseph Fourier, Institut de Géographie Alpine, Grenoble, France. Previously, he was involved in teaching and research activities at the University of Hannover, Freie Universität Berlin, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and University of Bonn. At the University of Bonn, he was a Research Associate in the Research Project Culture Area Karakorum supported by the German Research Foundation. During the past two decades he has been involved in research and grant writing activities for numerous international organizations such as German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (GIZ), Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Aga Khan Cultural Service (AKCS), German Research Foundation (DFG), Volkswagen Foundation, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and others.
Dr Matthias Schmidt received his Ph.D. from the University of Bonn, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in 2001 on the topic of Water and Property Rights in Shigar, Baltistan: Autochthonous Institutions of Resource Utiliszation in the Central Karakoram. He also holds a Postdoctoral Lecture Qualification from the Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Earth Sciences based on his research on Human and Environment in Kyrgyzstan: A Political Ecology Study in a Post-Colonial and Post-Soviet Context.
His publications and research interests focus on political ecology, human-environment geography, development studies, transition and post-socialism studies, mountain research, natural resource management, environmental change, globalisation, livelihoods and vulnerability, migration processes, Central and South Asia, and East Africa.
University of Central Asia
138 Toktogul Street
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
2nd Floor Conference Room
The presentation will be conducted in English.
Please RSVP to Elnura Omurbekova with your name and affiliation.
* Ideas presented in this lecture reflect the personal opinion of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Central Asia and/or its employees.