Land degradation is a serious economic, social and environmental problem in the transition economies of Central Asia countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It directly affects the livelihood of the rural population by reducing the productivity of land resources and adversely affecting the stability, functions and services derived from natural systems.
Agricultural yields are reported to have declined by 20-30 percent across the region since these countries achieved independence two and a half decades ago, annual losses of agricultural production from soil salinization alone are estimated at USD 2 billion. The causes of land degradation are multiple, complex and vary across these countries, but are largely attributable to the abuse and over-exploitation of the natural resource base, particularly through inappropriate and unsustainable agricultural practices, overgrazing, deforestation, forest degradation and natural disasters.
The principal forms and causes of land degradation currently experienced across the Central Asian countries include: (i) erosion, salinization and water logging; (ii) deteriorating productivity of rangelands; (iii) decrease in fertility of the arable drylands of the steppes; (iv) decreased area and productivity of forests; (v) on-site and off-site impacts of mining operations; (vi) exacerbated risks from landslides and flooding due to poor watershed management; (vii) reduced stability and functioning of desert, mountain, wetland and riparian ecosystems; and (viii) inadequate and incorrect assessment and monitoring of land degradation.
Knowledge for sustainable land management
The Knowledge Management in CACILM II (Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management) project, initiated in 2013 with the support of IFAD, has been contributing to building a knowledge platform in the region to consolidate knowledge created for up-scaling and out-scaling sustainable land management (SLM).
Target areas for the project are four agro-ecosystems present in all five countries that represent important environments for human livelihoods. These agro-ecosystems comprise: (i) irrigated agriculture, covering a relatively small area of about eight million hectares, but at the same time providing most of the agricultural products in the region; (ii) mountains, constituting over 90% of the area of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; (iii) rangelands, constituting the largest portion of land resources in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; and (iv) rainfed.
Demonstration sites continue to be the major part for SLM validation and knowledge dissemination. A total of three-four sites per country were maintained and used to demonstrate advantages of selected SLM to producers, local authorities and mass media (see map).
To date, the project has gathered and systematized more than 90 SLM practices applicable to four main agro-ecosystems of the region: rainfed, irrigated, mountains and rangelands. Most of these practices have been tested at demonstration sites in each of the five countries.
The project has also prepared and disseminated recommendations on cultivation of cereal crops using zero tillage and winter wheat using raised-bed technology, as well as factsheets on these technologies. All of these resources are available on the project website.
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.