Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

On September 11, 2020, the ‘Ensuring Climate Resilience of Farms and Dekhkan Farms Located in Arid Areas of Uzbekistan’ project, conducted by UNDP, Uzhydromet and the Adaptation Fund, held a field workshop on organic farming and autumn onion sowing for women-led households in Karakalpakstan’s Kuk Suu community. 

The practical training was attended by ten women who learnt to use hand seeders, rehabilitate soil with organic fertilizers, and make better use of drip irrigation for arid soils. All these practices are detailed in the publication ‘On the use of organic farming on household lands in the northern regions of Karakalpakstan’, copies of which were shared among the training participants.

The main agricultural difficulties faced in Karakalpakstan’s northern regions are linked to depleted organic matter in soil, and to droughts caused by climate change and soil salinization, both of which are greatly detrimental to harvest success. In the driest years there can be no harvest whatsoever, which has devastating socio-economic impacts. 

Together with the ‘Enhancing the climate resilience of rural women in the most drought prone communities in the Aral Sea region through application of conservation agricultural practices’ project, and with support from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, workshops have been conducted with a focus on sustainable agriculture practices. Particular attention has been given to improving women’s socio-economic well-being. 

Kok Suu is in a remote part of Karakalpakstan’s Bozatau region, with 3,955 inhabitants (1,678 women) who make a living through household garden plots and animal husbandry. Both these means of income generation are threatened by water shortages in the lower reaches of irrigation canals, which occur during drought periods. In dry years highly-saline collector and drainage network (KS-1) water is used for irrigation, which results in the degradation of arable land. 

 

The climate resilience project intends to counter this problem by using a reverse osmosis system to deliver 6m3 of desalinated water each hour, supplying a drip irrigation system to be owned by 20 women in the community. Such infrastructure is to be complemented with practical training used to introduce best practices in organic farming.

At the September 11 training event, in addition to being familiarized with the use of organic fertilizer and methods of applying drip irrigation systems, training participants also learnt to use hand seeders. These low-tech solutions are reliable and durable, capable of sowing 20 to 30 acres each day, adjustable for different seed types, and allow for accurate planting which reduces labor and seed costs. 

Onions were sown with hand seeders during the training, after which there was a demonstration of mulching ridge surfaces with previously-prepared compost. From the one hectare planted in the training it is expected that 20 tonnes of onions will be harvested, worth around 40 million UZS in total (at current costs) or 4 million UZS for each of the training’s ten participants. This result confirms that the new approach is not only less climate-dependent, but also profitable and resource saving. 

Following the training hand seeders will be donated to women in the Kok Suu community, benefiting 500 family members. 

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