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Bastamkul Saidkulov is one of many farmers working in Uzbekistan’s arid regions who face problems related to poor-quality soil and lack of rain, and have had to seek new approaches of overcoming these problems. His previous livestock farm was underproductive, leading to reduced incomes and low living standards.
The solution to Mr. Saidkulov’s problems came in the form of what is referred to in Iran and Turkey as ‘Green Gold’, but is better known as the pistachio nut.
The humble nut is ideal for dry regions with low levels of precipitation, where there is little prospect for alternative forms of agriculture. The crop is very resistant to drought and infertile soil, and represents a long-term investment that in five to seven years will produce crops 50 times more profitable than wheat
Mr. Saidkulov has been a key forerunner of pistachio farming in Uzbekistan. With support from the UNDP-supported GEF Small Grants Programme, Mr. Saidkulov contributed to a study conducted by experts from the national Forest Research Institute to determine how pistachios could replace other less-sustainable crops on his land along the Nuratau mountain ridge.
Pistachio trees represent a form of agriculture that serves as a long-term investment. While farmers participating in the study showed initial concern regarding the plant’s long gestation period, it was the emphasised that after starting to fruit, pistachio trees can continue producing crops for hundreds of years.
Following the study, 200 local residents were trained in growing pistachios while 50 hectares of pistachio plantation were established. The study’s findings were distributed among Uzbekistan’s regions with a high potential for pistachio cultivation, while news of the crop’s benefits have travelled even faster by mouth.
Since the pistachio’s first introduction in Uzbekistan, approximately a hundred hectares of plantation has been established, with a further 1,000 hectare earmarked in the Djizak Region alone. A year after the crop’s introduction, it was realised that planting material and forestry providers would have to expand in order to meet demand for the crop.
To meet the growth in demand for pistachio seeds and related products, ‘points of growth’ are being established. These facilities will contain collections of highly-productive pistachio varieties, and will provide planting and inoculate materials to farmers.
The Gal Aral collection has been the first of such ‘points of growth’, established in the Andijan region of Uzbekistan, with another planned for the Fergana valley. An eventual total of four to five points of growth will be sufficient to match the newfound popularity of the sustainable and profitable ‘Green Gold’ crop in Uzbekistan’s arid regions.