Rural households in Uzbekistan customarily invest into livestock as a secure way of savings. Surroundings of settlements and accessible watering points are normally used as grazing areas. However, unsystematic and excessive load on rangelands has led to strong processes of land degradation and put pressure on rangeland resources.
Like the entire region of Central Asia, Uzbekistan’s livestock production faces a number of challenges, despite support from the governments and attention paid to improving production of livestock. Constraining factors are mainly limited resources of pasture and arable land for fodder production, whose state is further exacerbated by erratic rainfall and growing summer temperatures in recent years.
Increased demand for meat products due to population growth and income of urban residents indicate the need to consider a more environmental resource-saving approach for feed and livestock systems. In recent years, once very productive livestock system and infrastructure has deteriorated as a result of intensive use of natural resources and looming negative impacts of climate change.
Rangelands in Uzbekistan are one of the most important life-supporting natural ecosystems. They occupy about half the country, nearly 25 million hectares, the bulk of which is located in the north – large parts of Karakalpakstan, Navoi and Bukhara region, as well as south - Kashkadarya region.
Eighty percent of rangelands are located in deserts, with average annual precipitation of 100 mm, mainly used for karakul sheep, camel and goat breeding. Karakul sheep, the most well-suited for desert rangelands, makes up about 4.5 to 5 million heads, mainly bred by 'shirkats' (collective farms) and households.
This spring, to address challenges like climate change and land degradation, ICARDA-led Knowledge Management in CACILM II project organized a round table with participation of rangelands experts, officials, members of the parliament, farmers and local population to discuss the state and prospects of rangelands development in Uzbekistan.
Dr. Akmal Akramkhanov, project coordinator, highlighted the importance of addressing legal issues related to improving the efficiency of pasture use, and formulating steps on further facilitation at the government level.
As stated by experts, about 40% of desert pastures are degraded in varying degrees and there is a tendency of increase of this phenomenon. The concentration of large number of livestock causes shortage of green-fodder in foothill areas due to excessive grazing. Currently, over 3 million hectares of rangelands are subject to medium and 1 million hectares - to strong degrees of degradation.
Excessive use of land for grazing around settlements, lack of watering points for livestock in remote pastures, abandoned and poorly maintained water-wells, lack of transportation and roads to remote pastures, mismanagement of pastures led to the loss of forage capacity and disruption of natural regeneration of pasture productivity.
One of disturbing signs of rangelands degradation is the growing level of contamination with poisonous and inedible weeds. Developing in abundance, they cause poisoning of varying severity up to death, and damage the health of farm animals.
To date, there has been no law on rangelands in Uzbekistan. According to current legislation, most pastures are considered as land designated for agriculture, thus, issues related to pastures are regulated by the Land Code, which provides only limited measures such as obligations for improvement of their condition and compensation in the event of improper use.
Use of capacities of local communities, active participation of pasture users in decision-making, as well as in financing of management mechanisms and development of rangelands infrastructure are key components of sustainable solutions.
Household owners in Farish district of Jizzakh region believe that joint work is necessary to adopt a practical law on rangelands. In Farish, the greatest issue is to monitor vast areas of pastures to ensure sanctions against illegal resource loggers. According to local population, there’s a need to raise awareness of residents about the necessity of the law, sustainable use of natural resources, and economy of livestock. Animal fodder is expensive and population does not have other sources of income besides livestock.
Moreover, the procedure in case of sanctioning with penalties is difficult as it requires a passport copy and registration certificate of the logger. These shortcomings are needed to be taken into account while preparing the draft law on rangelands.
The reflections on the round table held by CACILM II project have been submitted to the Center for Support of Entrepreneurship and Farming of Uzbekistan for further consideration. The center is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that works in cooperation with governmental bodies and regional authorities and assists farmers in improving sustainability of agriculture and agro-industry.
Knowledge Management project in CACILM Phase II, implemented by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) since February 2013, aims to establish a knowledge platform to consolidate knowledge generated within Phase I of CACILM and to outscale sustainable land management approaches and technologies in five participating countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The project has prepared and disseminated among stakeholders several recommendations on sustainable use of semi desert rangelands in foothills, desert pasture livestock and feed resources and infographics on processing of coarse forage before feeding, pasture degradation and a video on sustainable management of rangelands For more information, please visit project website: www.cacilm.org.
Acting as an information repository and knowledge hub, this website helps to increase the use of innovations developed by the well-established CACILM Project in Central Asia. Its synthesis, compilation, and dissemination of current research provide a secure knowledge base that policymakers and other stakeholders can access and utilize to develop sustainable strategies capable of addressing the region’s severe land degradation.