Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

02.09.2016 - Kazarman

 

This entry is dedicated to the nomad people of Kyrgyzstan. Even though they are not directly contributing to environmental protection, their lifestyle is hardly producing any greenhouse gases. No travels, no use of fossil fuels, almost no use of electricity. All they need is a small space of land to put up their simple yurts and to watch over their cattle.

 

Nomadic people contribute just a minimum amount to climate change but are effected the most by this event. They depend on predictable weather throughout the years to maintain their lifestyle and culture. Earlier and/or longer winters are threatening their only income sources: Dairy products and mutton.

 

Read about my experience of staying one night with a nomad family in a yurt, getting a good insight into their way of life.

Ikram and Family

Nomad people

Kazarman, Kyrgyzstan

Living the nomad life

 

 

Today was a hard cycling day. I passed a 3,000m high mountain on a bad gravel road and now I am slowly rolling down into the valley. All I want to do is put up my tent and sleep. But half a kilometer in front of my planned camping spot I suddenly hear people shout and kids run towards me: I get invited into a yurt.

 

'Come! Come!' I follow the three kids towards their temporary home. They seem pretty excited. One of them is wearing a radio around his neck. It's playing a US-American rap song from 1998. That's kind of strange.

 

Ikram and his wife are milking the cows as I come closer. They give me a hearty welcome and without hesitation teach me how to milk a cow myself. Nomad people love explaining their work to others. Never before did I do this kind of work and so the output was rather little. After a few minutes Ikram is taking over again because there is still a lot of cows to milk while the sun is slowly setting behind the mountains.

In front of the yurt I meet the rest of the family: The oldest daughter (23) is taking care of her younger sister who must be around three years old. The boys carry big buckets of milk towards the yurt and place them next to a machine. The daughter then is feeding the machine with the fresh milk and, by turning a metallic crank, producing a sort of sour cream called Kaymak. The output has a high percentage of milk fat, mostly around 60%. Of course they want me to experience the prodution process as well and so I find myself sitting on a low stool turning the heavy crank. After five minutes my arm gets tired. These nomads are used to hard work for all their life - the girl was operating that machine for an hour without complaining.

 

Another dairy product of the family are the fermented cheese balls. While the Kaymak is more likely to be for self consumption, these cheese balls are put into huge bags and sold on the Bazar in Jalalabad, Kyrgzstan's third biggest city. This will be the only time of the month when Ikram will, instead of riding his horse, get into his old Audi and drive into town. In the booth he will carry about 8 bags of cheese and if he manages to sell everything this will bring him around 400$. This is a lot of money per month for a Kyrgyz family but keep in mind that the season for nomads starts in spring when they lead their cattle into the mountains, and ends in September with the first snowfall. Basically they generate all their income for the whole year in just 6 months. The above mentioned climate change, which can lead to longer winters, thereby threatens a lifestyle that hasn't changed much for hundreds of years.

 

 

Meanwhile, dinner is ready. The whole family gathers in the self-made yurt, eating self-made bread with self-made kaymak. Only the tea leaves were bought at the Bazar in Jalalabad, otherwise this meal is 100% self-sufficient. And the fresh bread together with the fresh dairy product tastes delicious as well. The only downside of it is, that there is hardly any variety. Breakfast the next morning will consist of the same things. Not a really balanced diet.

 

It is already late and by now I am more than tired. The family offers me a place to sleep in a big tent next to their yurt. The floor is hard and the temperatures drop down to zero degrees. Furthermore there is a mouse running around my head all night long. At times like this my tent feels like a five-star hotel.

 

With the first sunlight I get out of my sleeping bag. Outside the air is fresh and the early morning sun sets the valley in a beautiful red light. Everyone is already back to work. I think to myself that this is a wonderful place to be - but just for one day. I get on my bicycle and move on.

I guess I have never been so far away from globalisation than in this yurt. The only electronic devices were the boys' radio that could play one song and an old cellphone belonging to Ikram. The world seems to move much slower in the Kyrgyz mountains. And people seem to be happy about it. May their lifestyle continue to stay the same for the next couple centuries. To make that happen, we in the industrial countries, have to change our wasteful lifestyle towards a more sustainable one.