Kyrgyzstan: fertile ground for Acorn

Kyrgyzstan, like many nations relying on agriculture, has been impacted by climate change in various ways. Together with AFoCO, Acorn is determined to turn the tide for this beautiful country. Anne-Lot Kemna (regional manager for Asian partnerships), Lynn Velraeds (senior operations specialist) and Paulo Fijen (cloud engineer) traveled there — this blog covers their experiences.

Fecund to fallow

Anne-Lot, during her first visit to Kyrgyzstan, noted just how at risk this country is for desertification. Fully landlocked, it relies on glaciers and groundwater for irrigation — but both of these sources are compromised as a result of climate change. Add to that that many farmers focus on livestock, and the resulting overgrazing unfortunately means that vegetation doesn’t stand much of a chance.

“It was clear that what farmers needed was irrigation, and fencing — in order to protect saplings while they’re small and vulnerable and allow them to grow to maturity. As it stood, the lack of vegetation also impacted groundwater reserves — without roots to retain that water, it’s receding to where it can no longer be accessed for irrigation.”

No surprise then that many of Kyrgyzstan’s isolated rural communities are experiencing a mass exodus to other countries. A shame, because this mountainous country has great potential for unique biodiversity — and is even home to the world’s largest natural walnut forest.

A prime candidate to be onboarded onto the Acorn programme, a second visit was scheduled to judge feasibility. But before this visit could come to pass, fate had something better in store for Kyrgyzstan.

After meeting with AFoCO (the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization) in South Korea and planning to sign an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with both AFoCO and the Republic of Kyrgyzstan at COP28, Acorn could begin onboarding right away. No small task: with the entire country to cover (as its farmers live fairly spread out), there was plenty to do.

Working together with Kyrgyzstan’s Forest Service, Paulo provided data collection training for ground truthing — and, as it turned out, media outreach. “During a training session, the local news suddenly showed up and asked to interview me,” he says. “I hadn’t prepared for that at all, but explained Acorn’s activities and the importance of data collection.”

On the right: Paulo, ambushed and interviewed by the local news.

Kyrgyz farmers, resting as their horses graze, mountains in the background.

But that wasn’t the only media attention Acorn received in Kyrgyzstan. Anne-Lot even made an appearance on national TV to talk about the potential benefits of agroforestry for the country and its farmers.

Enthusiasm among the population is high, with the Minister of Agriculture supporting the project and many farmers wondering not so much “why?” they should join the Acorn programme, but just wanting to know “when?” The only challenges are the country’s geography and climate, with mountain ranges, unpaved roads, and heavy snowfall during winter. “But that shouldn’t be too much of an issue,” Paulo says. “It’s just a situation we haven’t come across yet, that kind of seasonal pattern affecting data collection. Who knows? It might even make it easier.”

Anne-lot on national TV in Kyrgyzstan discussing Acorn

A bright future

His optimism is shared by Anne-Lot. “So much can be accomplished in this country,” she concludes. “With fencing to protect saplings and water pumps to provide irrigation, you can achieve great results. We visited a few smaller pilot projects that had already integrated those solutions, and it was impressive to see how trees had grown 3 meters in just 2 years, and how the ground was covered in wildflowers. Kyrgyzstan’s soil is clearly very fertile, which means there’s a lot to be gained.”

Team photo in Kyrgyzstan

About Acorn

We help support smallholder farmers in developing countries transition to agroforestry. Together with local partners, we facilitate the funding and training needed by farmers to start their agroforestry transition. Transforming the sequestered CO2 through agroforestry into Carbon Removal Units (CRUs), we offer carbon credits to responsible corporates to help them reach their climate goals. The growth of the trees is measured with satellite imagery, AI and LiDAR, and certified by ICROA-accredited Plan Vivo.

With 80% of the sales revenue going directly to the farmers, it creates an additional income stream and helps them adopt a more climate-resilient way of farming that improves food security, biodiversity, and financial independence.

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Anne-Lot KemnaAccount ManagerLinkedIn
Lynn VelraedsSenior Operations SpecialistLinkedIn
Paulo FijenCloud EngineerLinkedIn

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