The GEF Small Grants Programme

in Uzbekistan

Drip irrigation in the Ferghana Valley. History. People. Prospects

In 1968 young agricultural scientist Jamoliddin Boltaboyev in the Namagan province took his son Abdulvokhid to the fields to show him the drip irrigation system constructed on the first 1-hectare plot. In such a way Abdulvokhid started acquaintance with drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a system delivering water and necessary fertilizers directly to the root zone of a plant.

The first system built by his father was simple: he used a heated screwdriver to poke small holes in the hoses stretched over the garden and then he inserted there a usual button with two holes. One was sealed with the heated screwdriver, and the other was delivering water to the root of a tree.

Being a good manager and specialist, Abdulvokhid's father got chairman positions on various state farms in many regions of the province, so he had no time to realize his dream, to implement drip irrigation system. It was Abdulvokhid who made his dream come true.

Though Abdulvokhid is an engineer by profession, he runs his private farm named "Jamoliddin-Sardor Khamkor" as a tribute to his father. Its name defines Abdulvokhid's progressive (from the word 'Sardor') approach to the use of natural resources in the modern challenging environment. Abdulvokhid began to apply drip irrigation system in his fields. He inherited a lot of books on drip irrigation and certain best practices from his father. He tried out a lot of various approaches over several years of careful research. His first success came when he managed to construct drip irrigation system out of available materials on the first 5-hectare plot of his cotton field. It should be said that his field is located in the former riverbed, the soil is mostly gravel and infertile, its quality grade is 30 points. Abdulvokhid's neighbours receive yields of 5–15 centners of cotton per hectare. He managed to produced 38 centners per hectare. Not too bad, isn't it?

The water supply situation in the province is not an easy one. Owing to the effects of climate change, the waters of the Naryn River, flowing through the Namangan province and feeding farmers' fields, are declining year by year. Moreover, the amount and composition of water coming to Uzbekistan is affected by the neighbouring countries, where many Central Asian rivers have their source. Nevertheless, many people still irrigate their lands the same old way. Only few consider how to use water efficiently and achieve better results. Many got mostly some poor information on drip irrigation. Only few inhabitants of the great Namangan province heard about Abdulvokid, a farmer who thinks different and has been applying his own drip irrigation system in his fields for a number of years.

There is a lot of water in the Namangan province in comparison with other regions, so no one really saves it, said Abdulvokhid. Given the fact that the province is located near the border, there is no shortage of water yet, so many farmers are not going to change traditional approaches. Yet one can find some places somewhat resembling beautiful and well-groomed European rural scenes among the vast spaces and the diverse landscapes of the province. Nosirjon Sayfullayev is a common farmer and Abdulvokhid's adherer. He is enthusiastic to try out something new on his farm. So we went to visit him. The road was twisting along the Norhern Namangan canal, pumps were delivering water to irrigation ditches.

Nosirjon has two greenhouses with the total number of 12 ares. In one he produces cucumbers and tomatoes in the other. This year Abdulvokhid has helped the farmer to install drip irrigation system. Abdulvokhid has explained him how to install the system and Nosirjon did it in his greenhouses himself. When we visited him the tomatoes were still green, but the cucumbers were getting ripe, so we were offered to taste them. It was extremely hot (34° C) and humid in the greenhouse, so the fruit were very warm, but they tasted nice. I gather up to 35 kg of cucumbers every day and the plants will bear fruit till the end of August, says Nosirjon. He has not yet tried out the system to the maximum all the season long, as they say, but very pleased with the results and in the future he plans to install the system in open fields where he raises vegetables and melons. Along with the greenhouses, he has a 2-hectare field where he grows plants using kind of little irrigation ditches, as many other local farmers do. They use roof felt strips bent like a gutter and delivering water to the fields.

The vegetable grower's fields are located in the Uychi District. When traditional irrigation methods were previously used, water was pumped upwards and there flew uncontrollably along the irrigation ditches, so the soil absorbed too much water and often caved in, making large holes. As the locals tell, sometimes equipment and machinery slumped out in the fields. These roof felt irrigation ditches do not settle the problem completely and do not prevent cavings, so the farmer is going to install the well-proven drip irrigation system in his other fields. He understood that drip irrigation system is profitable and potentially productive: you have to install it once and then harvest good yields for many years. Harvest is the best argument for farmers, says Abdulvokhid. People come to understand that, when using drip irrigation, topsoil is not washed away, there are fewer weeds, and labour effort is reduced.

After Abdulvokhid had assured himself that drip irrigation system is the future of Uzbekistan's rural irrigated farming, he committed himself to promotion of this technology. He decided to apply this technique, as well as to produce the required equipment and distribute it among all the farmers of the province, the Valley and the country.

So we met him in 2010. Abdulvokhid decided to purchase the equipment and install drip irrigation production line. He long tried to get a bank loan for this purpose. And after long and persistent struggle and pleas he managed to obtain a loan to purchase the required equipment. GEF Small Grants Programme provides money to start up production and buy necessary raw materials.

Why GEF Small Grands Programme helps this initiative? The answer is simple and clear:

Water is almost completely delivered to the root stalks of irrigated plants. Water use efficiency attains 90%. Moreover, the amount of irrigation water is reduced 2–5 times. Isn't it a critical issue for Uzbekistan?!

Consumption of water and minerals needed for plants reaches the optimum. Every crop gets favourable water and environment nutritive regimes;

Quality and productivity of crops increases by 30–50%. Forwardness of crops;

Delivery of nutrient liquids directly to the plant root system results in reduced spendings on mineral fertilizers. Drip irrigation saves 30–40% of mineral fertilizers.

It also eliminates the need for crops protection costs. When applying microirrigation, water is directed on rows of plants only. As a result, the soil between the rows remains dry and inhibit the growth of weeds. Moreover, leaves of every plant remain dry, thereby preventing disease establishment.

Energy costs are reduced considerably. The proposed method requires 50–70% less energy, as compared to others.

There will be no need to recruit labourers for field works. It ensures reduction of labour cost.

Requirements for water supply systems are minimal.

There is an option to operate the system if the supplied water is mineralized, which is impossible for other types of irrigation systems.

Microirrigation ensures minimal or no adverse effects. The system is easy to operate and requires low installation and maintenance costs.

There is an option to use local water sources (springs, rivers, and lakes).

Positive results obtained for short time promoted rapid spread of drip irrigation all over the world. Alternatively to spray irrigation, drip irrigation is based on delivering water in small doses to the root zone of a plant. The amount and frequency of water feed depends on needs of plants. Water is coming to all plants uniformly, in the same amount and as much as a plant needs, with no flooding and water loss. Moreover, this method reduces huge water loss caused by evaporation during water transport to plants.

At the moment farmer Boltobayev has launched production line of drip irrigation systems that are already implemented in several gardens and cotton fields. Garden system costs an average of 4 600 000 UZS per 1 ha and the system for cotton fields costs 6 900 000 per 1 ha, the cost of water filtration system is not included.

Contact info of farmer Abdulvokhid Boltobayev:
Tel. + 998 93 4951198;

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