Kirghizistan community based tourism as a way to democracy

Kyrgyzstan is a small country in Central Asia that has been independent since 1991, with 94% of its territory consisting of peaks, valleys, and plateaus of the Tien Shan mountain range, about 40% of which exceeds 3,000 meters in height.
 Approximately a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product comes from the primary sector, and just over half of the workforce is employed in agriculture and mostly nomadic livestock farming. The mining sector and hydroelectric production are the other pillars of the local economy.
 In recent years, tourism has also emerged in the Kyrgyz economic landscape, providing new opportunities for development and income integration, mostly for families of nomadic shepherds who have opened their communities and their high-altitude summer yurt settlements to walkers, cyclists, and itinerant travelers. Despite enchanting landscapes and grand peaks, tourism is still a small part of the state’s economy: in 2019, it accounted for 5.1% of the national GDP, with the goal of reaching 7% by 2023.

Those who visit the Kyrgyz Republic today, once the peripheral southeastern border of the Soviet empire, do so mainly to discover a destination for adventurous journeys made of 4x4 jeeps, long horse rides, and multi-day treks. Often, visitors also come into contact with a grassroots democracy experiment built step by step by local agricultural micro-producers, guides for slow and often “different” tourism, and shelters, camps, and reception points that create temporary communities capable of connecting tourists and residents, two worlds at opposite ends for the first time able to speak to each other.

Among the most active realities in supporting community micro-enterprises is CBT (Community Based Tourism), an association that supports and organizes tourism respectful of local realities and the natural environment, giving space to small proximity economies and favoring transparent and democratic relationships in a country increasingly squeezed between Russian clutches and Chinese and Western aspirations, at the center of a Great Game that once again seems to have restarted in the heart of Asia, between old and new caravan routes.