Efforts to combat land degradation in Central Asia received a new impetus with the three-year project to streamline the use, creation and dissemination of knowledge on sustainable land management (SLM) in the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), which has been funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) since 2013. This initiative aims to improve knowledge on SLM practices in the region, and tailor this knowledge to the needs of local populations and authorities for practical use and shaping of better informed policies. It also establishes a platform to consolidate knowledge and promote sustainable land management approaches and technologies that have been already devised by researchers in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is implemented in the broader framework of the Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management (CACILM, Phase II).
ICARDA as coordinating center of this knowledge management project convened an annual steering committee meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on 24 June 2015 to review the achievements and constraints of the second year and to plan activities for the third year. Twenty project partners and participants from government organizations, research institutes, regional and international organizations met to discuss the progress so far and what needs to be done in the future. In particular, the participants agreed that this project has potential to become a 'flagship' initiative on knowledge management, particularly through focusing on knowledge dissemination pathways. It was recommended that different formats of knowledge dissemination be used to package results for wider use. For example, high quality videos can help to enhance knowledge exchange among countries, contributing to regional cooperation.
To date the project has collected and described in standard format more than one-hundred SLM approaches and technologies applicable to the four main agro-ecosystems of the region: rainfed and irrigated agriculture, mountains and rangelands. Many of them have been tested at demonstration sites established in each of the five countries. Among these practices are zero and minimum tillage, raised-bed planting, use of improved crop varieties and intercropping practices, water-saving technologies, non-traditional fertilizers, rotational grazing in desert regions, agro-forestry melioration for rehabilitation of degraded irrigated lands and others (see project website at www.cacilm.org).
Overall support and willingness to further enhance collaboration was voiced by the national partners and international organizations members of the project steering committee namely the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). The discussion provided promising leads to jointly pursue further knowledge management for SLM. Linkages and complementarities with new emerging initiatives in Central Asia were encouraged. These include a country-driven initiative facilitated by FAO on integrated natural resource management (CACILM Phase II); World Bank’s Regional Program on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Aral Sea Basin (CAMP4ASB) and European Union Regional Environmental Program for Central Asia (EURECA Phase II). In addition to promoting linkages with new initiatives, the steering committee recommended a no-cost extension to cover one additional agricultural production season and to prepare a proposal for IFAD support.
Besides demonstration sites and targeted materials, the CACILM approaches and technologies are promoted through various events. For example, the Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry, the Kazakh Research Institute of Animal Breeding and Forage Production and ICARDA organized a field day ‘Development of productive pastures in rainfed and irrigated lands using ‘green' technologies’ on 2 July 2015, at the Zhaynak experimental site of the Kazakh Research Institute of Animal Breeding and Forage Production in Iliy district of Almaty Region, Kazakhstan. The field day was attended by about 50 participants, including the district mayor, local officials, researchers, farmers and other land users. In particular, the participants looked at ways of cultivating forage crops using waste water.
As a partnership between the Central Asian countries, international donors and research-for-development organizations, this initiative underlines how collaboration can make a difference. The initiative also supports the region in implementing the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.