On November 22, Dr. Iskandar Abdullaev, Deputy Director Two of the CAREC Institute, presented the results of the institute’s recent research at the webinar “Transformation to sustainable and resilient agriculture”, which was a part of the PRC Fund Knowledge Sharing Webinar Series: “Developing Productive, Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture for Food Security: the PRC’s Experience”. The webinar series aims to promote regional cooperation among ADB’s developing member countries, support cross-regional knowledge sharing, and promote peer learning in the Asia-Pacific region to improve food security in the region through productive, sustainable, and resilient agriculture development.
Dr. Abdullaev spoke about the transformation of agriculture and food systems in the Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Agriculture in Central Asia continues to play an important social and economic role, providing jobs for a significant part of the economically active population. The initial transformations of agriculture were changing of collective farms into shareholder farms when state lands were distributed among the rural population to ensure food security. As the result, productivity has increased, and crop rotation practices have changed from cotton to other crops.
Central Asia is very dependent on water, which is currently the main problem for the development of agriculture in the region. The reforms carried out in the water sector also affected agriculture. In the spirit of privatization, the private sector and local communities have been involved in water resource management. The countries have formed local associations to manage water for local irrigation. The introduction of water fees and reduction in government support for irrigation agencies have been also one of the outcomes of recent transformations. Therefore, setting up a feasible and well-functioning and financed water sector prerequisite for sustainable agriculture development in the region.
The CAREC Institute has studied the possible impact of climate change on agriculture in Central Asia. Preliminary results show a potential decline in agricultural productivity due to expected water shortage in the region as climate change impacts. A significant decline in agricultural productivity is expected in the region if climate change impacts are not addressed. This is due to the high dependence of agriculture on water resources. These negative effects have a direct impact on food security, trade, and socio-economic aspects of people’s lives, especially, in the least developing countries.
In the Central Asian region, the production of food crops has increased over the past 15 years, and the area under cash crops (cotton) has decreased significantly in comparison to the late 1990s. Crop cultivation intensity increased from the usual one crop (cotton or wheat) per season to 2-3 crops per year. This change implies significant increases in agricultural energy consumption and the use of fertilizers and chemicals that may affect climate change and water scarcity.
“Despite transformations in agriculture, the region still needs knowledge, innovation, and agricultural extension services. State investment in the agricultural sector in Central Asian countries is declining, thereby opening access to private and international agricultural finance with new forms of enterprises. We see more and more cooperation in growing crops to meet the needs of the regional and international markets. Research-based interventions are essential for developing more visible, more viable, and more sustainable agriculture in the CAREC region,” said Dr. Abdullaev.