Kazakhstan: Apples Coming Home to Almaty
With tempers fraying over the vexed issue of land in Kazakhstan, some prime plots in Almaty are to be leased to a local consortium with the aim of reviving the fortunes of the city’s iconic Aport apple.
The Agriculture Department of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, has allotted 400,000 square meters of agricultural land on the outskirts of the city to a group of Kazakhstani investors trading as Apple World, reports state news agency Kazinform.
The group hopes to cultivate the Aport apple, which once grew abundantly in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountain range, on a patch of land that was home to an orchard in the 1940s. The fortunes of the Aport have suffered from encroaching development as Almaty has expanded its borders into the surrounding countryside in recent decades, destroying swaths of both cultivated and wild orchards.
This move represents a homecoming as apples are believed to have originated from these forests in the Trans-Ili Alatau’s foothills. Almaty’s name is derived from the Kazakh for apple, alma, and it translates as “place of apples.” The Aport, which has become a symbol of the city, is a large, red species of apple that can grow up to one kilogram in weight.
Apple World are not the only company interested in reviving Almaty’s Aport heritage. Two young businessmen from the city, Andrey Kim and Timur Takabayev, have been putting in work in their spare time to bring an Almaty orchard back to life.
The pair bought some land with abandoned Aport trees on it and embarked on a project to resurrect them. Within a year, 300 trees were restored to a healthy condition. Enlisting the help of social media, they successfully marketed the fruits of their labor along eco-friendly-lines in recycled cardboard boxes containing three or four apples.
With large areas of arable land remaining undeveloped across Kazakhstan, more of these visionary entrepreneurs are needed to put the country’s agricultural traditions back on track.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.