During the Soviet regime, all mulberry trees in the region of Gorno-Badakhshan in Pamir, Tajikistan, were protected by the state. The leaves were used in raising silkworms, an activity of strategic importance to the national economy (Tajikistan was in fact a producer of silk and the breeding and processing of silkworms was a government activity, ed). When I was a child, farmers would arrive at our family farm armed with hatchets and large bags and would immediately climb the mulberry trees and began to cut the branches. After they had gathered up the foliage in the bags they continued on their way.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, various privately run commercial cooperatives were created and the shop counters filled up with a range of products, often of poor quality and from abroad. The local population gradually ceased harvesting and drying mulberries and government monitoring of the trees decreased. People started to cut down mulberry trees in their private gardens, starting with the black mulberry whose fruits were considered of little use, to provide fuel for their wood heaters. The consequences? In about 10 years all the black mulberry trees and 30-40% of white mulberry trees were destroyed.
The Pamir Mulberry Presidium project was launched in 2009 following a visit from the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, and I started producing mulberry bars. At that time the price per kilo was 2.4 somoni (about US$0.50) and we were the main buyers of mulberries. Gradually, year-by-year, demand has increased and has even doubled since 2012: we have bought and exported more than 15 tons of mulberries! The population has regained its appreciation of the fruit; nets are once more seen stretched beneath the trees at harvest time and the price has increased (up to US $1.80).
In one of his speeches, Carlo Petrini said that the project to create one thousand gardens in Africa required significant time and commitment. I would like to communicate to Carlo Petrini that, thanks to Terra Madre and the Presidium, demand for mulberries in Pamir has increased over five years and as a result people have ceased to chop down mulberry trees. This means that Terra Madre has saved more than 50-70 mulberry groves in Pamir. Many new “gardens” have also been created here.
Given the increasing demand for black mulberry fruit, I have decided to make a contribution in the name of Terra Madre. Specifically, I have ordered 100 black mulberry saplings that will be ready in the spring. During the month of March (weather permitting) I will distribute these saplings for free among the Rushan and Porshinev populations. I would like to put labels on these trees with the inscription “Terra Madre”, thus expressing my gratitude to the Slow Food network.
Khorog-Dushanbe, Tajikistan, January 2, 2015
Pamir Mulberry Presidium Contact: Davlat Marodaliev, [email protected]