ADB-funded project on “Improving Rural Livelihoods through Efficient On-Farm Water and Soil Fertility Management in Central Asia” (RETA 6136) has been successfully completed in August, 2007. This project was implemented in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. A number of new technologies such as for amelioration of magnesium rich sodic soils, water-wise cost effective technologies, bio-drainage for control of ground water table, conjunctive use of saline and drainage effluents, resource conserving zero till technology, etc have been developed and transferred to the farmers for wide adoption. The implementation of the project in farmer participatory mode helped in raising the farmers' awareness and hands-on technology development and transfer processes.
Zero till technology tested in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gave very promising results and it now occupies close to 100,000 ha in the rainfed winter wheat systems in Southern Kazakhstan. The availability of good prototypes of planters in other countries is the only bottleneck that needs to be removed to result in significant benefits to farmers in other Central Asian countries. The safflower production technology has spread to more than 70,000 ha in Southern Kazakhstan. Raised bed systems tested extensively in Azerbaijan and southern Kazakhstan allowed seed saving by almost 50% while improving the productivity of winter wheat.
The research conducted on irrigation methods in flat and sloping lands has clearly brought out that surface mulching combined with alternate furrow irrigation and/or cutback irrigation not only increases water use efficiency by 30-50%, but also improves the cotton productivity by 15-24%. Micro-furrow irrigation technology researched in Tajikistan not only reduced soil erosion by 80% in sloping lands (up to 10% slopes), but also improved the water use efficiency in cotton by nearly 30% and yield by 20%. The average net benefit of growing cotton using micro-furrow irrigation is 43% higher than the traditional irrigation system.
The new resource conserving technologies reduce the tillage and crop establishment costs, save in fuel and labor, and result in timely planting of the crops. The zero till technology induced cost reduction and yield enhancing effects amount to more than USD 40 per ha, suggesting a saving of nearly 4 million USD from 100 thousand hectares of zero till wheat in Southern Kazakhstan alone.