16 July 2018
On 29 May – 2 June 2018, the UNESCO Almaty Office, UNESCO Office in Beijing and Kazakhstan MAB National Committee organized in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the 15th meeting of the East Asian Biosphere Reserve Network (EABRN) devoted to the theme “Providing Models of Sustainable Development”.The meeting was attended by 70 participants, including representatives of seven EABRN countries - Kazakhstan, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Russia and the Republic of Korea, as well as representatives of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, managers of biosphere reserves (BR), local authorities, academic community and youth, who actively participated in discussions. The event brought together representatives of two Koreas - North and South, which once again confirmed the status and reputation of Kazakhstan as a bridge uniting nations.
On 31 May – 2 June, the participants of the EABRN meeting carried out a field evaluation of the Altyn-Emel BR, with a particular focus on biodiversity conservation and the role of local communities in managing the reserve. Altyn Emel BR, located in the central part of the Ili intermountain basin, is one of the largest protected areas in Kazakhstan and is important for the conservation of biological diversity of the region.
The field assessment of the Altyn-Emel BR concluded that this BR reached substantial progress in the field of ecotourism development and sustainable productions. At the same time, this BR has greater potential for production of renewable energy, which will require more investment and support from both the government and private sector.
The Altyn-Emel BR has already developed good facilities to host tourists, and improvement should go in the direction of offering more information and services into English (as the number of foreign tourists is growing every year, already 45% today). The experts suggested the BR to move from ecotourism to agro-tourism, since local communities already produce good-quality products, such as meat, honey, vegetables. Another issue highlighted by the experts is a need to develop a national brand for the local productions of biosphere reserves, which will help to increase revenues for local communities. The Kazakhstan MAB National Committee has already started working on that.
The biosphere reserve has many opportunities for renewable energy production. Solar panels were already installed in some control posts managed by the park. However, the biosphere reserve has a much greater renewable energy potential to be further explored.
The evaluation concluded that the Altyn-Emel BR has much to learn, but also a lot to share with other biosphere reserves, in particular in the field of ecotourism development and sustainable productions. It is also very active in promoting educational activities targeting local communities with great potential to outreach more in the country.
The above issues can be addressed in a pilot project to be launched shortly in Kazakhstan by the UNESCO Almaty Office.