Many school children learnt the importance of conserving the forest and its biodiversity through a small nursery for the endangered Niedzwetzky’s apples at school. The Niedzwetzky’s apples, known for its unique red flesh, are indigenous to Kyrgyzstan and some of the neighbouring countries, and they are endangered due to excessive logging and clearing of forests for agriculture. This conservation initiative taught school children to protect this endangered species by demonstrating the cultivation method called closed root system. Each school child now takes new seedlings to home, and they observe the growing apple trees before they will be planted elsewhere.
After the training the school children noted that they had participated in such trainings for the first time, and had promised to actively engage in the preservation of forest biodiversity. They are interested in creating more school nurseries in order to further contribute to the preservation of the forest. We planted the Niedzwetzky’s apples, known also as “Kyrgyz almas’ among the Kyrgyz, in three near-by villages.
We also visited Madambek-Ata, our mentor/consultant of our Niedzwetzky’s apple project and a resident of the village of Tandoo. 83-year-old Madambek Kadyrov has been growing nuts and other fruit trees since 2003. The land where trees grow now was once a waste land. He decided to plant fruit trees there 13 years ago because of an encounter with school children who cried of thirst in search for drinking water during a school trip. Madambek-Ata reflected on the incident and decided to turn the place into a garden so that the children could come and relax in the shade. Since then he has planted almonds, pistachios, nuts, apples, and hawthorns in this now a lush fruit garden. He lives here with his grandchildren who help him tend the garden.
As the garden grew, so did biodiversity of the land: Foxes, hares, pheasants, chukars and other species have returned to the forest. Now the students of the school in Tandoo have also planted more than 120 Niedzwetzky’s apple trees. The local ancient variety of Kyrgyz Kyzyl Almas (Niedzwetzky’s apples), which was on the verge of extinction, has been brought back. Locals still cut down trees for firewood, but instead of leaving the plot empty, they now plant other trees in their place.
Nurmamat Saparbayev, the coordinator of this project at Rural Development Fund, literally collected seeds from the remaining Niedzwetzky’s apple trees and grew them in cups at his home. These are the original seedlings which he took to the school nursery. Now the children are happy and cannot wait to hear the rustling of forest leaves from the apple trees of an ancient variety near Madambek-Ata’s garden.