Multiple apricot varieties being replaced with more homogeneous, marketable types.
Farmers in southern Kyrgyzstan are cutting down mature apricot trees for firewood and either replacing them with new, better-yielding varieties, or leaving the land fallow.
Apricots, both fresh and dried, are big business in this part of Kyrgyzstan, in a tradition recorded in 10th-century written sources. These days, growers complain that irrigation systems have been allowed to fall into disrepair in recent years, so the total area planted with fruit trees is shrinking fast.
Locals in the Batken region say the old trees may be less productive, but the fruit tastes better than the varieties now in vogue. Many of the 25 distinctive and diverse strains from the past are dying out.
There is another downside to eliminating long-established orchards wholesale – the wood from mature trees is ideal for making the “komuz”, a traditional Kyrgyz stringed instrument. Younger wood is not as hard or stable, so instruments made from it do not sound as resonant and will not last more than a few years.
Jenish Aydarov is an IWPR contributor in Kyrgyzstan. This audio programme went out in Russian and Kyrgyz on national radio stations in Kyrgyzstan. It was produced under two IWPR projects, Investigative Journalism to Promote Democratic Reform, funded by the European Union; and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU or the Norwegian government.