Combating land degradation

Gullies caused by water and wind erosion in Tashkent Province, Uzbekistan

The Knowledge Management in Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management (CACILM), funded by IFAD, was launched by ICARDA and its partners to develop and out-scale sustainable practices capable of optimizing productivity in the region's varied agro-ecosystems. The project successfully completed in 2016.

Four agro-ecosystems make up the agricultural landscape of the Central Asia and Caucasus (CAC) region: irrigated, which covers a relatively small area (8 million ha) but nevertheless provides the region’s highest agricultural output; mountain, covering 90% of Kyrgystan and Tajikistan; rangelands, which cover most of the land resources of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; and rainfed.

Land degradation and climate change are two of the region’s most significant challenges. The former is a result of a complex set of factors, but can be attributed to the overexploitation of the land, unsustainable and inappropriate agricultural practices that are remnants of top-down farming strategies implemented during the Soviet era, deforestation, poor watershed management, the environmental effects of mining, forest degradation, and natural disasters.

These in turn have created erosion, salinization, and water-logging, which combined with the aggravated effects of climate change — including hotter summers and colder winters with erratic precipitation, and increasing desertification — have led to decreased agricultural productivity. It’s estimated that agricultural yields have declined by 20 to 30% in the last two decades, with soil salinization alone accounting for USD 2 billion in losses.

CACILM set up demonstration sites across the four regions of the five nations in the CAC to test selected SLM techniques applicable to the respective four main agro-ecological systems of the region. The project’s mission was not only to demonstrate these techniques but to promote them region-wide to decision makers, local farmers and authorities, and the media. Over 90 SLM practices were synthesized from available resources, including research institutions and farmers’ knowledge — with 2-3 demonstration sites maintained in each of the five countries — creating a clearinghouse of resource and knowledge to be shared and scaled-out for further implementation.

Similarity maps, which ICARDA has undertaken in other regions, were also developed to identify out-scaling areas where selected agricultural interventions could be potentially implemented and serve as targeted investments to increase productivity and improve livelihoods.