Eco friendly farming brings higher yields for farmers, stalls desertification
MARY PROVINCE, Turkmenistan – 8 November, 2011 – Farmers in Turkmenistan who grow cotton, grain, and vegetables, face the problem of low yields because of salinity, erosion and degradation of fields caused by inefficient land leveling, use of fertilizers and irrigation of fields.
Because of high saline levels in the soil, Vepa Dzhumaberdiev’s five hectare field in Zahmet farmers’ association of Sakarchaga district of Mary province only produced approximately 13 quintals of cotton per hectare from 2000 to 2010.
For the last three years, UNDP has been working with some 350 local farmers from three ecologically different regions in Turkmenistan: the mountainous region of Kopetdag, the sandy Karakum desert and Mary province – an agricultural region that relies on intense irrigation. Together with project partners, UNDP is helping local communities in all three regions to identify and implementsolutions for the pressing problem of land degradation. As a result, farmers are introducing sustainable water management (in all three regions), and preventing and rehabilitating soil salinity in Mary province.
- Local communities in Nohur district of Kopetdag regionreplanted100 hectares of Juniper (Turkmen Archa) woodlands: 80 percent of the new trees took root, and they now prevent erosion on mountain slopes.
- Communities in Nohur district installed drip irrigation infrastructure in 40 ha land and planted 3,000 fruit tree seedlings to develop alternative businesses such as gardening in exchange for traditional live stock breeding to prevent pastures from overgrazing. In support, the local administration has provided 300 villagers with plots for gardening, as they reduced their livestock by at least 100 heads.
- Local communities from the Karakum region built 11 water wells and repaired six old wells, ensuring efficient livestock grazing around watering points helping to improve the rational use of pastures.
|Vepa Dzhumaberdiev on his new motorcycle, bought with new profits from higher crop yields. Mary Province|
The Zahmet farmers’ association in Sakarchaga district of Mary province, some 25 local farmers, rehabilitated approximately 85 hectares of degraded land through building a 10 kilometre drainage system, installed 60 devices to better measure water levels in the ground and 10 water regulation devices for more even water supply to the fields. These simple but effective techniques helped the farmers to completely rehabilitate their fields and increase their crops.
In fact, 11 out of the 25 farmers increased their crops by 30 percent from 2010, leaving each with a net profit in the range of $1,500 to $2,000. They are using this money to improve their living conditions, invest in education for their children and buy new agricultural equipment.
After learning new sustainable land management techniques from training provided by UNDP, Vepa Dzhumaberdiev invested his own money to rehabilitate his field, 90 percent of which was completely degraded. Vepa levelled his field, connected it to the new drainage system, irrigated the soil, applied fertilizers and installed a water measuring device. Eventually, Vepa harvested 32 quintals of cotton per hectare in 2011, which is a 2.5 increase of his previous harvests.
"I have never collected such yields from this field before," said Mr. Dzhumaberdiev. "For me, it was a surprise that I can get more crops using less water and fertilizers. I even bought a motorcycle with a trailer with profit money to transport my harvest."
Mr. Dzhumaberdiev is now helping other members of the local community as a volunteer, supporting self-organization of the farmers in the Zahmet farmers’ association. He is now responsible for overseeing the timetable of water supply to the farmers’ fields so that each of them gets a fair share of water for irrigation. Villagers are calling him a "local consultant" because he can share his experience with others.
Vepa and other farmers now believe they can harvest even more, with a goal of 50 to 55 quintals of cotton per hectare. They are currently collaborating with a consulting business Durnukly Osush (sustainable management), established with financial and expert support from UNDP in Turkmenistan. Durnukly Osush is now a self-financed private organization employing national experts who independently carry on the work initiated by the project.
Durnukly Osushsupports farmers with improving the condition of irrigated land, introducing new ways to use water such as mini-wells in the fields, and mapping of irrigated lands with the use of GPS. The consulting business also provides trainings for farmers on sustainable land use and water management, including rational use of water for irrigation and application of fertilizers as well as basics of entrepreneurship in agriculture. Farmers also benefit from services provided by Durnukly Osush in evaluating how they can improve the conditions of irrigated fields and the quality of drinking and irrigation water, or in establishing private gardening and social partnerships.
|View slideshow from the project|
Establishing this type of service in Sakarchaga district, an important agricultural region in the country, has made a significant contribution to sustainable development in the region. Supported by UNDP, local communities have established similar consulting services throughout the region.
"It is important that the experience and knowledge accumulated during the project is shared and used at the local level across Turkmenistan," said project expert Mukhammet Nepesov. "Communities can benefit economically and at the same time, help protect the country’s natural resources."
To encourage the process of establishing similar projects throughout the country, UNDP conducted scientific research, such as: mapping and analysis of pasture management in Karakum; monitoring of the level of soil mineralization and ground waters in Sakarchaga; studying methods of pest control and simulation of growth of Juniperus turcomanica seedlings – in collaboration with experts from Turkey; and monitoring pasture land in Nohur and Karakum using GIS technologies – together with experts from Heidelberg University.
The Capacity Building and On-the-Ground Investment for Sustainable Land Management project, with a budget of $1,500,000, aimed to demonstrate new and sustainable approaches to land management through investment at the local level. The project was implemented in partnership with the Government of Turkmenistan, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
More about Turkmenistan
More than 80 percent of Turkmenistan lies within the Karakum desert. The country’s arable land is farmed and irrigated intensively, often with outdated farming practices, notably for grain and cotton production. Pasture land is being destroyed and many mountain forests have been cleared, and will not be able to grow back due to overuse and soil erosion. Local springs are also disappearing.
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