Conflicting Strategies for Contested Resources: Pastoralists’ Responses to Uncertainty in Post-socialist Rural Kyrgyzstan

  • Bernd SteimannEmail author
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


Based on a case study in rural Kyrgyzstan, this chapter explores the multiple constraints which shape agro-pastoral practices today and how local households respond to them. To do so, it distinguishes between different forms of uncertainty, that is, social and political, livelihoods, knowledge and ecological uncertainties. Results show that Kyrgyz agro-pastoralists must respond to much more than ecological uncertainties only, and that the extent of these uncertainties differs a lot between the rich and the poor. Responding to these uncertainties, wealthier households often refer to different sets of norms and practices to justify their claim on pastures and other resources – a practice typically described as ‘forum shopping’. At the same time, rich and poor households alike constantly try to diversify their cash income sources, often beyond agro-pastoral production. The example of herders taking paid employment in a foreign mining company on their communal pastures shows that such diversification can rapidly become precarious in the sense that newly adopted income sources may contradict with pastoral practices and may seriously threaten subsistence production in the long run.


Agro-pastoralism Pastures Uncertainty Livelihoods Diversification Forum shopping Kyrgyzstan 



This research received support from the National Centre of Competence in Research North-South (NCCR North-South), with financial assistance from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). I thank Gulzar Kuruchova, Ayzaada Bekboeva and Aisuluu Kurmanbay Kyzy for research assistance, as well as Christine Bichsel, Urs Geiser and Susan Thieme for commenting on earlier versions of this chapter. Responsibility for the ideas expressed herein remains mine alone.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Geography, Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZürichSwitzerland

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