Kyrgyzstan ranks third most vulnerable to climate change impacts in Central Asia


BISHKEK (TCA) — Recent climate resilience research has shown that Kyrgyzstan is the third most vulnerable to climate change impacts in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, primarily due to the sensitivity of its agricultural systems to climatic change. Impacts such as climate temperature change could cause altered precipitation patterns and more frequent heat extremes, leading to increased incidence of aridity and drought, particularly in the mountain pastures. Since Kyrgyzstan’s land area is 90% mountainous, it is increasingly important to build resilience to these climate changes and to enable communities to continue thriving.

The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI) conducted household surveys to measure climate resilience trends. They developed case studies of villages in the Naryn, Bazar-Korgon and Batken regions, which are categorised by the World Food Programme as having high recurrences of poverty and high or medium risk of natural climate change shocks, relative to the rest of the country.

MSRI’s used a new tool for household surveys, which uses generalised and shock-specific subjective resilience measures to evaluate households, and take into account different contexts and demographics. “This new measuring tool has been designed using a subjective approach to question design, which emphasises the power of local people to understand, and communicate their own resilience capacities without the need for long and complex surveys,” said Lira Sagynbekova, MSRI Research Fellow.

This tool is an alternative to the traditional approach of choosing and evaluating household characteristics to measure its resilience. “It was tested during a household survey and the regression results show that it is a strong predictor of household food security,” said Abbie Clare, Researcher with the Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies (PRISE) project at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

UCA’s MSRI in collaboration with LSE organised a workshop on Predicting Future Food Security: A New Method for Measuring Resilience Using Data from Kyrgyzstan on April 13 in Bishkek. At this workshop, this new tool was presented by Clare, Sagynbekova, and Akylbek Rahmanberdi from the Alliance of Mountain Communities of Central Asia (AGOCA). The workshop mainly targeted stakeholders involved in the practical aspects of planning, delivering and/or analysing field surveys on the topics of food security, climate change adaptation and development.

The event brought together researchers, representatives of the State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry, Ministry of Emergency and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Kyrgyz Republic, and experts from non-governmental organisations and development agencies including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme.

Developed within the PRISE project, the tool is context-transferable and can identify which households can maintain their food security in the face of shocks and stressors. During the workshop, Rahmanberdi stressed the practical use of the tool and how results have proved its efficiency. “After testing the tool, we have found a strong demand for a methodology to assess the resilience of our member villages. There is also a possibility to use the survey’s short subjective resilience questions as a monitoring tool or as an early warning system,” said Rahmanberdi. “They are quick, could be done over the phone, and may provide early indication of slow onset shocks, like drought or livestock disease.”

The PRISE project is a five-year project funded by the International Development Research Centre in Canada and the Department of International Development of the United Kingdom, and spanning seven countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Burkino Faso, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It aims to spur climate-resilient development in these countries by working with local communities, Universities and policy makers to produce research and policy outputs that explore themes such as value chain management, private sector development, local community resilience and the impacts of migration.

The University of Central Asia was founded in 2000 as a private, not for profit, secular university through an International Treaty signed by the Presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan; ratified by their respective parliaments, and registered with the United Nations. The Presidents are the Patrons of the University and His Highness is the Chancellor. UCA’s mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain communities, by offering an internationally recognised standard of higher education, and enabling the peoples of the region to preserve their rich cultural heritage as assets for the future. UCA brings with it the broader commitment and partnership of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Sergey Kwan