The GEF Small Grants Programme

in Uzbekistan

Help of indigo color

Salinity of land is one of the most important challenges for farms throughout the country. Salinity greatly reduces soil fertility and its potential for cultivation of any cultures. Accordingly, it reduces the chances of farmers to get profit. In this situation, farmers need to solve the problem of soil salinity. One of the ways is maintenance of qualitative drainage system. But this way is very expensive and, unfortunately, is not widely used by farmers due to lack of funds. Are there any other, less expensive, but effective ways to combat salinity? Of course, it is advisable not to bring up the lands to salinity. This can be done with the help of many practices. You can get acquainted with one of them on our site. But what can we do if the lands are already saline?

UNESCO in collaboration with ZEF (Bonn, Germany) and USU (Urgench State University, Uzbekistan) are conducting a joint project. Among other results, this project has conducted research on testing various alternative crops that can grow on saline lands of Khorezm region. These studies revealed that Indigofera legumes can quite successfully be cultivated in the Aral Sea area. Moreover, a new kind of this plant, called "Firuz-1, was fancied.

Indigofera, like all other legumes, is able to absorb atmospheric nitrogen and accumulate it in the soil, thus enriching it. In other words, this herb considerably improves the quality of the land. In addition, this crop is able to bring considerable profit to the farmers who produce it. It should be noted it is possible to get the "indigo" dye from this crop which is used for dyeing various textile products and for coloring pottery, this dye is widely used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

However, there are some problems for the widespread introduction of this crop.

practically none of the farmers of Uzbekistan knows about that crop.

even if they come to know about indigo, then there are no sources where they could buy seeds of this crop.

before planting, any farmer will think, how much of this production he can produce, how much it will cost and to whom he can sell the grown product.

For solving these problems, Farmers Association of Khorezm region, with the direct support of Urgench University and UNESCO, asked the GEF SGP for support. A project was formulated and is currently being carried out and going to achieve the following results:

Since no one knows about this crop, firstly, it is necessary to tell about it as many people as possible. Therefore, our project held trainings in Urgench for farmers of Uzbekistan. It was attended by more than 40 farmers from 7 regions of the country. On this training the farmers were told about what indigo is, what products you can get from it, what beneficial effect this crop is having on improving of the soil quality, and how much profit can be obtained from the cultivation of this crop. At the seminar the farmers had practical exercises that helped the farmers to know how indigo should be properly planted and how to get a dye from plant biomass in the field. The farmers planted indigo seeds by themselves on the production ground of Urgench University under the direct supervision of the specialists. Then the farmers received an extract of indigo (dye) by themselves under the guidance of professionals with a help of very simple tools. Thus, the farmers have learned to grow and receive the finished product. And each participant of the project seminar was given 0.5 kg of seeds for trial planting of this crop by farmers themselves in their own land. The seeds were kindly provided by UNESCO office in Uzbekistan. Now each of them can get the "indigo" dye in the field, without additional equipment or specialists.

However, it is not enough to train only 40 farmers. To ensure further spread of the information about the crop, our project is preparing teaching materials which afterwards will be used by Urgench University. These materials will help to train future farmers and agricultural experts how to grow this plant, restore degraded (saline) lands and receive profit from it. After the completion these teaching materials will be displayed on our site for free copying and distribution by all interested parties.

The second problem, if you remember, is getting of seeds for planting. For this purpose a specialized nursery of high-quality indigofera seeds was created by this project in Kibray district of Tashkent region. The nursery was established on the basis of the farm "Indigo Jonibek”. 150 kg of seeds were sown on the field of the private farm on the area of 3 hectares. Even now the nursery has been able to produce over 800 kg of high-quality seeds of the breed "Feruz-1”. It is planned to produce annually 900-1000 kg of high-quality indigofera seeds on the lands of the nursery.

Even now, any farmer who wants to grow indigo for the restoration of the land and for getting profit, can buy the seeds. Contact phone number for purchasing of seeds: + 998 90 650 22 46; + 998 94 650 22 46 (Abdi-Kadir Ergashev).

But we should also consider where they can sell the finished product - that is extract of indigo dye. It is necessary to determine who could be a potential buyer, how much dye is needed, what are the procedures for sale, etc. The project has originally targeted the European markets. According to preliminary data, the price of 1 kg of natural indigo dye on the European markets is 200-240 Euros. However, in the course of the project, this information was not confirmed. Currently, the project has plans to find potential buyers in the domestic market or in neighboring states.

Upon completion of this project component, we hope to provide all interested farmers with the information on where to sell, how much and at what price, and give all information about export procedures of sale. In other words, we want to alleviate the markets channels for the farmers as much as possible. Why? Because more farmers would want to grow this plant, which means more land will be restored. Upon completion of this work a training seminar will be held in Tashkent for all interested farmers. Information will be provided additionally on our website.

Cultivation of indigofera is a very cheap way for recovering (reclamation) lands. It is much cheaper than draining. There are many benefits from the cultivation of this plant:

for the nature in the form of land rehabilitation;

for the farmers in getting- from a larger harvest of other crops from the restored lands and from sale of the product itself (indigo dye);

and for the state in the form of rejecting expensive methods of land reclamation which require big government subsidies and direct investments, and also in the form of improvement of social stability in rural areas due to better welfare of farmers, their families and communities in which they live.

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