Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

Over the past 40 years, his passion in life has been to preserve biodiversity and natural spaces.

Bekbuta Abraev is the director of the specialized state forestry enterprise of the Yakkabag district, in the Kashkadarya region. Originally from the nearby Dekhkanabad district, he had always felt an affinity with trees and nature, and so it was inevitable that following his military service he would come to work in the forestry sector.

After graduating from the Tashkent State Agrarian University, Bekbuta directed the Shurtan forestry enterprise in the Kashkadarya region before he accepted his current responsibilities. His third son has followed in his father’s footsteps, having graduated from the same university and learnt on the job at the Yakkabag enterprise, before studying medicinal plants at the ‘Makhmud Mirzaev’ Scientific-Research Institute of Horticulture, Viticulture and Vinery.

Today Bekbuta and his 107 employees manage 44,000 hectares of ancient mountain forest, which in addition to an impressive variety of flora and fauna, also contains historic sites linked to Uzbekistan’s national hero Amir Timur, and a 17th century mosque. His favourite place is a body of water in which, thanks to the efforts of him and his staff, mountain trout have been breeding for many years.

Much of the enterprise’s work in maintaining the forest is either state or self-financed, the latter through selling livestock grazing and beekeeping licenses for between 26,000 and 50,000 Uzbek Soums, or for up to $5. Beyond the resulting modest budget, Bekbuta has ambitious plans for the coming years. These include planting 380 hectares with nut trees, including pistachio and almond varieties, installing measures to protect against erosion, high winds and other detrimental conditions, and creating a nursery for fruit trees.

Attempting this work without sufficient modern machinery is not practical. Therefore, like the heads of other enterprises, Bekbuta has sought assistance from the ‘Sustainable use of natural resources and forest management in key mountain regions important for globally significant biodiversity’ project – a long-term initiative of UNDP, the Global Environment Facility and the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

At the start of the project’s work with the Yakkabag district forestry enterprise, national experts discussed with Bekbuta which vegetation and pasture reclamation technologies and related machinery could supplement those already being used, in order to fulfil his intended plans.

The new equipment delivered in March 2021 included a universal diesel tractor and compatible attachments, specifically a tilling machine for sloped land plots, two plow configurations for preparing soil for sowing and improving its structure, and a 4-row planter for sowing large seeds. The project has also provided a 4.5 tonne capacity trailer to the enterprise.

The Mountain Biodiversity Conservation Project has not just assisted the Yakkabag district forestry enterprise, but also those of the Akhangaran, Burchmulla, Kitab, Shakhrisabz, Dekhkanabad, Kamashi and Uzun districts, who have received similar sets of agricultural equipment. The use of the purchased equipment allows sowing up to 300-400 hectares per season and plant a forest on this territory.

Through providing this equipment UNDP has expanded the possibilities seen by Bekbuta and his team, allowing them to complete complex tasks in a faster way, and thereby saving both time and financial resources.

Foresters, planting a tree or shrub, create habitats for animals, insects and others. Of course, their role is very significant for the stability of the mountain ecosystem. For example, creating conditions for pollinators will increase the productivity of forest landscapes several times. Mechanization of the process of soil preparation and sowing of seeds, tree saplings and seedlings (walnut and pistachio), as well as shrub (hawthorn, rosehip, etc.) plantations makes it possible to accelerate the restoration of the local ecology of forest mountain ranges.

The population of mountain villages nearby Yakkabag forestry is growing, and every family, every house needs to heat their dwellings and prepare food. And the supply of energy does not keep pace with such an increase in the population's demand for fuel. Of course, in such conditions, people will cut down vegetation for firewood. Therefore, for this warning of the subregional forests, it is necessary to plant seedlings of fast-growing tree species, and provide them with the local population.

High-quality and quick preparation of land for sowing seedlings and seedlings will prevent the negative consequences of such business management on the territory of the Yakkabag forestry enterprise.

The on-going capacity building in Uzbekistan’s forestry sector, being carried out by UNDP and its national partners, not only helps to manage and restore mountain ecosystems but also improve livelihoods in neighbouring communities. The benefits are being felt by Bekbuta and his family, his employees, and the pristine natural environment they live in.

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