This article tells about our latest trip which was initiated due to our announcement about the contest for Kashkadarya region. So,
We are leaving Tashkent. The road is just wonderful as always and the beauty of the surrounding is breathtaking.
A short stop in Samarkand to eat famous Samarkand plov for dinner, and then move further, along the road from Samarkand to Karshi, passing by the frosty peaks of Zarafshan range, by Khazrat Daud. An interesting detail: only when we come in/out Kashkadarya province our car is stopped and all the data are carefully recorded. No other region does so. I cannot understand why they always record our car and where we are from. Well, that's okay.
One master went with us, we were going to visit Ecocenter Djeyran together. The master’s name is Zair. He was to assess the repair cost of the building, which we plan to get as a visitor center, or the cost of construction of a new one on the territory of the Ecocenter. The comparison of the cost is needed to develop a new project document for the development of the Ecocenter. We need to know how much everything costs in order to plan what can be done. And we have enormous plans.
In the evening we came to the Ecocenter. Together with Erkin, the director of Ecocenter, our Natalia Vasilyevna and our new "old" members ,Valentin and Anna we discussed at the table till late in the night the prospects of what and how we can do. The conversation was heated and live. And there is a hope that the work on preservation of this unique place will not be interrupted, and it will go on. We hope very much that the plans for further annexation of the new areas to expand the Ecocenter will be entered on the agenda of the State Committee for Nature Protection, Oliy Majlis and the Cabinet of Ministers of RUz. There is a clear intention of the Government to annex 24 000 ha and there is enactment of the Cabinet of Ministers about it. While only 10 000 hectares were annexed, it is also quite a lot. But we need to carry it through. Currently it stands still.
There is another great idea, born in the vasts of the Ecocenter. But we can’t tell you about it. We hope that you get to know about it later.
The night was cold. Our car was covered with beautiful hoarfrost. It's time to move out. People in Kashkadarya were already waiting for us. Goodbye our lovely Ecocenter. See you soon.
We held the first meeting with people from the Mubarek district where we had a conversation with two farmers, who responded to our announcement with the help of the local NGO. Below I cited our conversation so that you would feel the atmosphere of work with local people. This is important because it shows how people understand the grants and what their attitudes are. Of course, the conversation is presented in the shorter form, only the essence, but still. So:
- What do you want to do?
- We’ve read your announcement. We want to plant a garden of pistachio. It is hot in our province, as we know it is good for pistachios when the climate is hot, so we want to grow it. Mubarek plant is near us. Gas emissions are exhaled from this plant and there is small amount of oxygen there, the trees die because of it. That's why we want to plant trees.
- What nature problems do you have? What is bad in your area? What is wrong? What do you need to fix? or is there anything you want to adapt? We cannot solve the problem with these gas emissions. And who told you that tree are dying because of it? And if they die because of it, then why do you want to plant them again? What for? Then again, they will die as you said because of the gas.
- Well, it’s not the same situation. We say that our people always planted almonds. It grows well. Now, they are still planting it. If you help us, we will plant more.
- Ok. Let us again tell you about the GEF SGP, about the principle of our work and why we do it. By our projects we must show something new, tell people how they can use their land, resources with new methods in order to save it, so it will be good, both for them and nature. If you are already planting almonds, what is new that will we show to people? What the new that will we say to them? Another thing, we have to show a new technology to people and try to convince them to start using it. We help only those who first take the risk and switch to a new technology. All others do it by themselves. Our rule is as follows : we demonstrate the technology only one time in one area. Ok, you would plant almonds. Then what will neighbors say? "So what? We also know how to plant almonds. Give us money, and we'll also plant more almonds."
Let's start all over again. What is your occupation?
- Irrigated agriculture. I have more than 150 hectares of land, and he has more than 200 hectares.
- But the contest was aimed at reducing water consumption, so that people would adapt to the conditions when there will be less water and not at the time when it is needed mostly. How do you irrigate?
- We Irrigate from the channel. We have pumps. That’s how we irrigate.
- What pumps? How long do you water?
- The pumps are 55 kWh. Both of us have them. The pumps operate continuously for 6-8 months in the season. 300 liters per second. We pay something around 11 million sums for electricity in a season.
-You pay much. Do you want to save money? And is there enough water to irrigate?
- Sometimes enough. Sometimes not. We have land near the channel, so the water is available almost constantly. Though sometimes when you need water, it is not available. And of course we want to save it. Is it possible? How?
- There are many ways. Have you heard about the technology of laser leveling? We tried it in Khorezm. Very good results.
- Yes, we have heard something – the governor has told us, but we do not know what it is.
I tried to explain the benefits of laser leveling - to save water and to get additional crop. Farmers immediately absorb information and want to implement exactly this technology with pleasure. Gardens with almonds were immediately forgotten.
I gave them our newsletter, where everything is described with an emphasis on numbers and asked to talk with the khokim. Hopefully he will see it and certainly if there is an interest on the level of the district governor, we will begin to work. In the village where farmers are from, which was formerly a collective farm, there are 50 farmers on the irrigated agriculture. In general, they said that there are 275 farmers in Mubarek district. Therefore, the potential is high.
We agreed to keep direct contact with farmers and NGOs, which has helped farmers to find the GEF SGP. This is how our information from the site was probably the cause of a good initiatives (the NGOs visits our site weekly).
We leave the farmers of Mubarek district and in 5 minutes we were met by a farmer from Guzar district. This is a woman-farmer. Her name was difficult and so she asked to call her simply - Zulyayhon.
She is also the chairman of the Women Association of the district. She set forth her idea. Zulyayhon has 180 hectares of land, livestock area. On the dry-farming land, which makes more than 110 hectares, nothing is growing, and she thought of what could be planted there. We shall return later to her problems. We listened to her ideas, and said nothing yet – we need to look at the land and then decide what can be done there. But now we are going to a meeting at the former Irrigation Institute, currently engineering and economics institute.
Professor Irnazarov Ismatulla Irnazarovich together with a farmer from Kasbiy district and associate professor of the Institute were waiting for us there. We went to the room and started a conversation. Professor Irnazarov has many ideas, and he tries to make all of them clear for us. In turn about that ideas:
The first idea was about planting the green gram after harvesting the wheat. Green gram matures during 45 days with one additional watering. Immediately after collecting the green gram, the wheat is sown, which is due to early sowing gives the best crop for next year. Nevertheless it needs extra watering. And we take into account that there are 8000 farmers in Kashkadarya and if every farmer would water his/her land a little bit, the farmers in Khorezm would not get anything. It is necessary to achieve that more yield will be gathered with less use of water, but not vice versa. But the idea remained for further discussion with experts.
We were going to Guzar district. There we were waited by the governor, who was also a senator of the Oliy Majlis - Donaev Shomurod Holboevich. Professor Irnazarov introduced his idea of rapid crop rotation. It is proposed to sow fodder crops after the cotton harvest in late October - rye, oats, canola, winter pea. They must have time to give good sprouts before planting cotton in April next year. But there is one problem of the lack of seeds. And we need to find out to what graceful or ruinous extent sowing of additional crops can affect the land fertility.
The idea implies the demonstration of the possibility of intercropping, conducting costs and benefits analysis for this practice, and the establishment of seed farms for the production of intercropping if the practice is favorable and shows economic benefits. Now Uzbekistan does not have the seeds to supply to the farmers.
We also discussed the idea of using laser leveling, which also found a great response from the governor. In Guzar district, which is one of the driest agricultural districts in Uzbekistan, any ways to save water are essential. The residents are very interested in drip irrigation, and pistachios. There are totally 320 farms in the district.
One of the important points of discussion was the matter of staff. It is very important that someone from this area could manage these projects and implement them. It is very good to have an intention, but the implementation is a very complicated process.
After the discussion we shared information about our projects and presented the newsletter. We send them to all government organizations, but sometimes the governors, as it turned out, they do not receive them. We should consider it too. It depends very much on how the office and assistants sift information that should reach their chiefs! And there are important economic figures in newsletters, which are of great interest for governors. Well, this is the percentage of efficiency and the casewhich we must accept.
Discussions were long, so the day came to an end. It’s sleeping time.
We agreed to meet with our Zulyayhon-opa and went to her territory. The area is just a vast steppe, which now present mash of clay, and in May it will be just a drought.
In fact, nothing could be grown there. The cost of dry farming wheat crop are not paid off. The land is used only for pastures. If there is access to water, it is possible to irrigate it and get something, but let's talk in details about the challenges for such use.
Farmers along Uzbekistan use pumps to take water from the canal for irrigation. The pumps are mostly outdated, inefficient, with high power and energy consumption. With the farmers we talked to, have pumps, with power of 55 kWh and 75 kWh, which work for 6-8 months a year without interruption, in the season of irrigation. Farmers pay a lot of money for electricity, and it is fairly. But the usual practice is to agree with the local electrician, unrolling the counter, and the farmer pays half of the cost officially, and some part – to electrician for "service". Thus, the state energy company has spent 100 kW of resources, and received payment only of 50. Hence, by itself, is the lack and interruptions in the supply of electricity, because there is need to buy resources to produce electricity, and insufficient amount of money was received, therefore, lack of funds for modernization of energy infrastructure, which leads to a stable aging, which means an unstable power supply to all users, and other problems. But energy - this is one of the main factors in the development of a given region and of the state in a whole.
The water which is pumped, is used less effectively. There are many techniques that save water during irrigation. Their introduction is a very complicated process in our country, because the farmers do not have much motivation to implement them. Those farmers who are near the canals have plenty of water, and do not care about its saving, especially those who have water supplied by gravity. Those who pump water, can think only about the "savings" while paying for electricity. The problem is versatile.
What can be done? At the level of the GEF SGP, we can firstly concentrate on the mass distribution of pump constructions that do not require the costs for electricity or diesel. We have already written about simple design for dry farming lands. There are others. And we were witnesses of another design of pump here in Kashkadarya. We write about it separately. And declare a separate contest for the promotion of such technologies in Uzbekistan.
But let us go back to Zulyayhon-opa. She really does not know what to do with her land. We offered her to plant pistachio, but to plant without GEF SGP help, because we demonstrate any practice only one time in each region. We can potentially make a plantation of matricular innoculative materials there, where farmers who planted pistachio, will buy the innoculative material. But Zulyayhon-opa will not have enough financial strength for it. She decided to plant pistachio on 5-10 ha per year.
The next destination of our stop - Yakkabog district where we have the project on biogas.
This project is unsuccesful, because nothing has been done on time and now the installation is just not working, because the farmer cannot get the temperature when the gas will go. It’s too cold and he has already spent a lot of money on heating, but then he just threw it all. If the beginning of the works was concurred with the warm season, it would be possible to get the gas by cold weather, which would be used to heat the reactor. These kinds of failures, of course, are discrediting the entire technology. Farmers around are waiting when our installation will start working. If it works, many of them will start to install the same one. But until they see with their own eyes, this start won’t develop. Well, we will be waiting for the results.
The next destination of our trip was Shahrisabz district. We were going to the farmer Kuchar-aka. That he is has an excellent installation, which pumps water without a single kilowatt of energy and a drop of fuel. But more of that later. And now is about his idea. It consists of the following:
There is a canal. The farmer has a land, which is located in the hills near the canal. The plot at a height of 40 meters above the canal. Kuchar-aka wanted to explore new grounds with water and drip irrigation. The whole idea in principle is very good, because it brings water to the farmer without spending a single drop of fossil fuel and then use water in the most efficient way - this is just what the GEF SGP is planning to do in the next stage of its work in Uzbekistan. But this practice has its disadvantages. They are:
the farmer wants to raise the water, build a pool and spread out the water from it through drip irrigation system. The drip irrigation system was invented by himself, but have not experienced yet, even in farmer’s garden near the house. And he requests for 60 million sums for the realization of idea in a wide scale. You will be agree, if you do not know whether the system is working or not, it's hard to invest a large sum of money, won’t you? The first question - whether the system will work. The farmer should respond to it.
The second question - we usually show the practice and then spread it, other people learn how to apply it. When the practice is worth 120 million soums (60 million from the GEF SGP funds and the same amount of self funds), it is very difficult to promote it. Farmers prefer the cheaper technologies. Even such technologies can be introduced and promoted, but there must be a very strong assumption that it will be paid off and preferably for a short time.
The third question – in this project idea there is no component of the distribution of benefits among members of the community. All fully is focused on this business. At least some solution could be found in this case. In other words, there is still a lot of thing to work.
We returned to Shahrisabz where a complete lack of electricity was. The city is like a real dark spot. And this situation is not a single case, but rather the rule for many rural localities. So, there is great potential for the development of renewable energy for private households throughout rural areas.
We visited our project on restoration of the greenhouse in Samarkand University. We talked with the curator of the greenhouse. There was no gas this year at all. Therefore, all the plants are in very poor condition. But if greenhouse were not restored, the plants would have died completely in the majority under old conditions. So the plants are waiting for a little warming time. We hope that soon the opening ceremony of the greenhouse will be conducted.