Kazakhstan Taps Farmers' Knowledge to Safeguard Pollinators

February 28, 2022

"At a young age, I was fortunate to have been exposed to the importance of pollination, not only for food production in Kazakhstan, but also for food security in the wider Central Asian regions. That awareness has stayed with me ever since." Elena Kurganova, Executive Secretary of the Beekeepers Union Bal-Ara and the Association of Nuts and Berries Producers from Kazakhstan, is a genuine advocate of sharing knowledge on pollinators with the local farmers.

The overuse of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, reliance on monoculture, and rapid rotation between forage crops and other cash crops are reducing the diversity of pollinator species [1]. This poses a threat to regional food security and Kazakhstan's economic revenue from pollinator-dependent export crops such as cotton and oil crops [2]. Elena leads the implementation of a pilot honey plant conveyor in the Almaty and Kostanay regions with the support of BES-Net's BES Solution Fund. Launched in Kazakhstan in 2020, the BES Solution Fund supports conservation efforts on the ground and fosters peer-to-peer support and exchange while nourishing and cultivating a community of like-minded biodiversity conservation enthusiasts like Elena. The demonstration plots with nectar crops, like the one managed by Elena and her team, unleash the wide range of benefits that pollinators provide to farmers' and beekeepers' livelihoods, preserving cultural values in balance with nature.

Ultimately, these practices ensure ecosystem stability and support harmonious interaction between nature and people. Unfortunately, intensive agricultural practices are spurred on by market demands that don't always consider what is best for the environment. The profit-driven economic paradigm often fails to capture pollinators' complex and interlinked benefits [3]. Pollinator-friendly practices such as nurseries for the melliferous plants or crop rotation conveyor methods [4] that bring long-term benefits to nature and communities are underestimated by the private sector, which values short-term revenue, keeping in mind fresh memories of the economic challenges in the early post-Soviet era. Once considered the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is still an exporter of crops, such as grain and oil, which are produced mainly in large-scale, integrated farms [5]. Furthermore, the absence of a policy response to safeguard pollinators and promote sustainable land use has hampered integrated nature-based solutions.

Yet, sustainable practices are not new to Kazakh farmers who have long preserved the traditional knowledge of camel milk, grain and oilseed production. Acknowledging the intrinsic value of farmers' knowledge supports the cultivation of indigenous genetic and biological resources and reduces pressures of wild species, promoting their conservation and sustainable use. Kazakhstan joined Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, who recently signed a memorandum of understanding to support indigenous genetic resources, including medicinal and herbal herbs, and promote a harmonized approach in related regulations. This vision of cooperation to protect indigenous genetic resources of the region was set up in 2019 when the countries took part in the BES-Net Central Asia Regional Trialogue.

"Awareness-raising, capacity-building and exchange of experiences play a critical role in shifting mindsets. They help in empowering the business sector to embrace techniques that protect pollinators and in encouraging policymakers to adopt laws supporting those practices", adds Yevgeniy Klimov from the Kazakhstan Federation of Organic Movement and Agricultural Extension Center.

Yevgeny and other experts implementing the BES Solution Fund in Kazakhstan are aware of interlinkages between sustainable farming, land restoration, pollinators protection and human wellbeing. "I was truly moved when I finally managed to find locally grown organic food to wean my child. At that moment, all our advocacy activities and capacity-building work to inform policymakers of biodiversity loss seemed to make sense. Health would be the greatest gift for the next generation," added Yevgeny.

The interconnection of pollination, food security and human wellbeing is a tangible example teaching us that complex challenges require an integrated response, with collective action that truly leaves no one behind. Building trust for a coordinated response from policymakers, the business sector, grassroots organizations, youth, academia and traditional knowledge holders will bring sustainable impact in Kazakhstan for years to come.


  1. Temreshev, I. I., Esenbekova, P. A., Kenzhegaliev, Y. M., Sagitov, A. O., Muhamadiev, N. S., & Homziak, J. (2017). Diurnal insect pollinators of legume forage crops in Southeastern Kazakhstan. International Journal of Entomology Research, 2(2), 17-30
  2. https://www.besnet.world/events/central-asia-regional-trialogue/
  3. https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/potts-et-al.-2016-safeguarding-pollinators.pdf
  4. Green grass/honey conveyor is the cultivation of mixed plants with high nectar productivity and sequential vegetative and generative features for stable bee feeding all year round. Simply put, a green grass/honey conveyor is a continuous supply of pollen for bees that keeps them efficiently in the field.
  5. Source: OECD Library https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/d3c7bdcf-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/d3c7bdcf-en

Kazakhstan is supported by the GC-RED managed BES-Net initiative through the BES Solution Fund to upscale and implement findings emerging from the IPBES assessments, as well as key priority actions identified during the Central Asia Regional Trialogue in October 2019. Aligning with national biodiversity strategies and action plans, the BES Solution Fund will help to strengthen institutions, better engage science, policy and practice communities, improve data availability and use and promote rigorous on-the-ground initiatives to conserve, protect and restore threatened ecosystems.