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Giant sheep help Tajikistan fight climate change

Giant sheep help Tajikistan fight climate change

In the hills 30 km from Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, shepherd Bakhtior Sharipov watches over his flock of giant Hisor sheep, a variety prized for its profitability and its ability to adapt to the environment. climate change.

This type of sheep has become almost a celebrity in this Central Asian country, affected by shortages of meat and arable land. “They fatten quickly even if there is little water and pasture available”says Sharipov, 18.

In the face of farmland degradation from years of overgrazing and global warming, this hardy sheep is a boon to Tajikistan’s producers, offering abundant meat to consumers.

About 250 specimens grazed in the sun at the beginning of spring under the gaze of Sharipov, accompanied by Caesar, a white Central Asian sheepdog, almost as big as the sheep.

“They weigh an average of 135 kilos. “It’s the end of winter, so they’re not very heavy, but they’re going to gain weight soon,” says Sharipov. The most robust Hisor rams can weigh more than 210 kilos.

About two-thirds of their total weight is meat and fat, more than any other variety, making them highly profitable for producers.

Improve the land

“Hisor sheep are a unique breed, firstly because of their weight”Sharofzhon Rakhimov, member of the Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences, tells AFP. “In addition, these sheep never stay in the same place, so they contribute to the improvement of the soil ecosystem,” he adds.

They can travel up to 500 kilometers in search of pasture between seasons, helping to regenerate grasslands in different regions. The decline in land quality is one of the biggest challenges for Central Asia. Around 20% of the region’s land is already degraded, affecting 18 million people, according to a UN report.

It is an area of ​​800,000 square kilometers, an area larger than the territory of Chile. Dust raised from arid soil can cause cardiorespiratory diseases.

Many farmers choose to migrate due to the loss of productivity of their lands. In this situation, Hisor sheep – capable of living in difficult conditions – are of great importance for Tajikistan.

Among dozens of posters glorifying Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on the road to Hisor Valley, there is a golden monument to the three types of Hisor sheep.

US$40,000 sheep

At a biotechnology center near Dushanbe, scientist and breeder Ibrokhim Bobokalonov uses genetic samples from the best species to try to breed the largest and most profitable sheep.

“The demand for Hisor sheep is growing not only in Tajikistan, but also in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, China and even the United States,” says Bobokalonov. The animals have also become a source of regional rivalry.

Sheep graze in a field near the town of Hisor, western Tajikistan. © Amir Isaev / AFP

Tajikistan recently accused its neighbors of manipulating the breed, crossing it with local varieties to create an even heavier sheep.

In Kazakhstan, a 230-kilogram Hisor sheep was recorded in a competition, setting a Guinness record. Others in Kyrgyzstan have exceeded 210 kilos.

Tajik breeders say they are determined to stay ahead. “This is Misha, he weighs 152 kilos and is worth US$ 15,000”says Bobokalonov, pointing to a sheep lying on the scale with its legs tied.

The value is equivalent to six years of average salary in Tajikistan. Bobokalonov hopes to sell it this year. “I hope that for this summer’s competition I weigh 220 or 230 kilos. By just feeding him natural products, without drugs, he can gain about 800 grams per day”says Bobokalonov.

A sheep from Kazakhstan was sold for US$40,000 in 2021. Producers appreciate the profitability of the variety, but for the general population, the sheep is appreciated for its flavor.

Mutton is an essential component in the diet of central Asia. Umedjon Yuldachev, a shopper at a local market, agrees. “With this mutton you can cook any national Tajik dish,” it states.

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Source: Gestion

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