Central Asia is the centre of origin and of diversity for many globally significant fruit and nut tree species. Bioversity International has been particularly interested in fruit trees in Central Asia, which contribute not only to income generation, but also to the nutrition of rural people.
Bioversity International and partners are working on the conservation and use of traditional fruit trees in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Over 50 fruit tree nurseries have been established to date, producing more than 1.5 million traditional variety seedlings annually of apple, grape, apricot and other fruit trees. One of these, Malus sieversii, a wild apple species, is considered to be a principal progenitor of domesticated apple and it is red-listed by the IUCN because it is threatened by over-exploitation, livestock grazing and other anthropogenic pressures.
Furthermore, 300 farmers are trained every year in soil, water and crop management practices. As a result, traditional fruit trees planted on dry, rocky slopes in Kyrgyzstan have managed to visibly restore the local ecosystem and improve productivity. Improved produce, market linkages and the establishment of farmer cooperatives have also helped improve local incomes and livelihoods.