The GEF Small Grants Programme

in Uzbekistan

Good yield and water saving can be achieved without expenses for tillage

All farmers have got accustomed that every year they have a busy season of tillage, consisting of ploughing, parceling, harrowing, etc., in spring, summer and autumn.

But only few people know that all these kinds of tillage are harmful for the soil. In addition, all these operations are the cause of accelerated mineralization of the soil and discharge of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, the main one of which is nitrous oxide. This gas is more harmful for the climate system than methane. It has a very big heat capacity.

All of this can be avoided and this is what the project in the Jayhun village in Kanlykol district of Karakalpakstan, is exactly engaged in.

What is the problem?

The main display of the soil degradation in actually all regions of Uzbekistan is low content of organic matter humus in the soil. The main cause of degradation is the use of monoculture (no crop rotation). However, in these conditions of the government order, the farmers are not able to eliminate the cause of the problem. Therefore, they have to operate under existing conditions.

The second important problem of the degradation is salinity of the soil. The main cause of salinity is excessive irrigation, which contribute to rising of the groundwater level and thus raising the salt along with them. The climate of Uzbekistan is very dry and hot. Therefore, the evaporation from the surface of the soil is high; it is often higher than rainfall. A large evaporation rate leads to soil siccation and loss of soil humification. Humus is available only in places where the soil microorganisms live. In dehydrated soil there are much less microorganisms than in a wet soil.

The problem of soil salinity is also exacerbated by the lack of water. Because of the high aridity, the farmers tend to think that the more water they use for fields irrigation, the better it will be. In addition, everybody is afraid of the deficiency of water, and grabs any opportunity to take as much water as possible. But this is not correct. Since temperatures are high in summer throughout the territory, if the vegetation canopy is not available on the soil, the evaporation is great and again the soil is drying up.

Unfortunately, the abundant irrigation of fields, as well as burning of stubble in the field, is a common practice. But this should be avoided. It is necessary that the soil would always be covered with vegetation canopy. The vegetative canopy would conserve moisture in the ground, and it would not require so much water for irrigation, and that means that more farmers will get the water.

Because of irrational water consumption, it is constantly in lack more and more, large areas of irrigated lands are not being watered any more and so they went out of circulation.

Being in the lower reach of the Amu Darya, the population of Karakalpakstan and Jayhun village in particular, is suffering from water shortage more and more. Out of 5,000 hectares allocated for irrigated agriculture in the district only 3,000 hectares have been rented by the farmers, due to the lack of water. Out of these 3,000 hectares much land is simply not used and is being overgrown with tamarisk (which is also not bad).

In other words, we can say that the cause of degradation of irrigated land is often a lack of knowledge of the farmers' practices, which allow them to keep the moisture in the soil without excessive watering and retain soil fertility due to the savings of organic matter in the soil.

How to solve this issue?

The soil-protecting agriculture is the answer to many questions. What is it? Actually this concept includes the following composite and essential parts:

Zero tillage is a method when the land is not tilled. When the land is not tilled, microorganisms and organic matters are stored in the soil, the wind erosion is not happening and upper fertile soil layer is not lost. The soil remains fertile and it means that farmer’s productivity and yield is always higher.

Mulching – it is necessary to protect the soil from the direct influence of hot solar rays which lead to excessive moisture evaporation from the soil. This is implemented with a help of grinding and leaving of plant residues on the soil surface. It could be the straw of the winter crop, the cotton cane, the residues of other crops.

Creation of windbelts – the benefit from field-protective plantations of the trees along the filed perimeter is well known for a long time. Such belts also prevent excessive loss of moisture, decrease the wind speed and prevent from wind erosion of the upper fertile soil layer. Furthermore, these belts can bring extra benefit in the form of firewood, construction timber, yield etc. There is a range of woody species that can be used for feeding the cattle. For example, an oak or acacia. The mulberry is widely used in our country. But more often the windbelts are cut down and the new ones are not planted.

Why the soil-protecting agriculture is not being practiced in Uzbekistan? It is an open question. We cannot answer it. But we can try to spread this useful practice of conducting agriculture.

Where is the project implemented?

The “Jayhun” settlement is situated on the north-western part of Karakalpakstan, 85 km from Nukus city. The population is 2068 people; there are 356 households in the village. The main occupation of the local residents is a growing of crops: wheat, sesame, sorghum, water-melon plantations and also breeding of cattle and small cattle, poultry farming. Industrial production is absent here. Drinking water and water for irrigation of agricultural fields and farmlands (about 10-11 million of cubic metres annualy) comes from the channel is running in the eastern part of the village. If the water is not available in the channel, the people use the water from the pipe wells (2 wells) installed in the village. For providing the cattle with drinking water they use a small pond that is situated near the channel and is filled with the channel water by gravity.

The majority of population is karakalpaks. The people from “Jayhun” village were traditionally busy with agriculture. Till 1999 before the lack of water began, rice was the main crop here. From 1999 they periodically suffer from the lack of water and cotton has become the main crop here, which was being grown only in the irrigated fields.

What will the project do?

The project is planning to teach the residents of the village the practice of soil-protecting agriculture which is suitable for the local conditions. This technology includes:

The practice of zero tillage with creation of permanent ridge belts for planting cotton and wheat;

The possibility of crop rotation within the framework of government order for wheat and cotton;

The practice of mulching;

Creation of field-protecting tree belts.

What is expected from the project? What results will be?

As a result of the project realization:

1. The method of reducing water consumption to 25-30% will be demonstrated.

2. The method of reducing expenditures for labor and energy to 70% will be demonstrated.

3. A demo plot of soil-protecting agriculture of 10 hectares will be created where the methods and ways of restoring the lost soil fertility, water saving, crop rotation, biological agriculture and silvicultural reclamation will be demonstrated. Attention will be mainly focused on application of zero tillage of the soil, as it is the agricultural system for restoring the soil fertility which is mostly sustainable in drought conditions. The demo plot is created for farmers of CBO Jayhun as directly interested parties and also for the farmers of Kanlykol and other districts of Karakalpakstan.

4. As a result of the project, the emissions of greenhouse gases will be prevented, the calculations will be done in the end of the project. The reduction of emissions will be considered in CO2 equivalent, including the reduction due to abandoning of the soil tillage operations and saving of fuel that was being used for tillage. The calculations will be made for the lands other than the pilot site – for the lands that will transferred to the new way of soil tillage as a result of the project.

5. The fertility of the partially degraded soil of 10 ha will be improved, exactly, the content of humus in the soil the will be improved by 0,02 – 0,04 %; the preservation of soil moisture will be 2,5 – 3,2% more than in the fields, cultivated by the traditional technology; the seasonal salt accumulations on the horizons of the soil of the demonstrative section will be decreased by 1,6 – 3,0 times.

6. As a result of the project the technologies of soil-protecting agriculture will be taught in details to at least14 farmers who will use the received knowledge and skills in their plots. And at least 30 farmers from other regions will be informed of the technology and will receive instructions for application.

7. The equipment will be purchased, which will help the farmers to be able to continue using the technology that has already been tested.

8. A detailed instruction for application of the new technology will be made and spread among the interested parties.

The equipment itself will be transferred to ownership of the Nizhne-Amudaryo biospheric reserve, created within the framework of the Tugai project. Later on, this equipment will be rented to farmers and payment for the equipment will be an additional source of profit for biospheric reserve, i.e. money will be spent for protection and preservation of the wild nature of Karakalpakstan.

You can get acquainted with the project of zero tillage in details by reading the project document.

download project document

Brief Information about the project:

Official name

“Introduction of conservation agriculture technology on demonstration plots of CBO Jayhun as an example of GHGs abatement and adaptation to water deficit induced by climate change”.

The project amount

From the GEF SGP 41,539 USD
From other funding source 39,817 USD
Overall cost of the project 81,356 USD

Contact person of the project - Aybergenov Bahit
Tel: +998 90 575 0514

In the project area:
Contact person - Tlepbai Berdimuratov
Telephone: +998 90 575 05 14
Address: “Jayhun” settlement, Kanlykol region, Republic of Karakalpakstan