Earth Days bridge dialogue and action, addressing conflict over natural resources in Kyrgyzstan.
Disputes over natural resources, especially water and land, are potential triggers for conflict in Kyrgyzstan. The country has experienced violent conflict on a number of occasions in its two decades of independence, driven by factors including a struggle for limited resources between diverse ethnic communities, weak adherence to the rule of law, and corruption. To alleviate some of the tensions, USAID created Early Warning Networks, which bring local government, traditional and non-traditional leaders, youth leaders and concerned citizens together to mitigate conflict through community dialogue and events.
This year, the Early Warning Networks in the southern Osh Province and at the national level organized a series of Earth Day celebrations. In addition to fostering dialogue and cooperation between communities over potential sources of conflict, these celebrations focused on promoting environmental awareness and positive changes in local communities. These activities are part of USAID/Kyrgyzstan’s Conflict Mitigation through Targeted Analysis through Community Actionproject (COMTACA). Through activities like these, USAID fosters conflict mitigation through technology, dialogue, and community events.
I was lucky enough to attend three events in honor of Earth Day. In the first, two communities in the Osh Province’s Aravan district joined efforts to clean irrigation canals. This helped improve the efficiency of their shared irrigation resources and reduced the risk of conflict over irrigation access. In the nearby community of Nookat, students planted roses and trees to create a greener school but, above all, to build a sense of student unity.
Albina Nurlanova is an eleventh grader who planted trees during these Earth Day celebrations. She shared her thoughts with me: “I was very glad to plant a tree in my school by leaving a memory for future students. Time will pass and in 20 years when I visit my school, I will be proud to show my children the tree that I planted it with my own hands and teach them to protect the environment.” Taking an active part in different environmental activities that bring unity and friendship—and put smiles on people’s faces—made me proud to be a citizen of Kyrgyzstan.
This series of Earth Day events culminated on April 20 with a final event organized in the national capital of Bishkek. It was called Environmental Awareness: the Roots of Peace. This event highlighted the importance of peace, harmony and the unity of Kyrgyzstan through environmental awareness. By planting a tree, participants demonstrated their dedication to harmony and stability by leaving a lasting memory for future generations. More than 300 students, environmental activists, artists and local residents came together in Bishkek’s Ata Turk Park to plant trees, sing songs, recite poems and give speeches about the environment. For more information, please visit www.acted.org or https://www.facebook.com/DenZemli.