What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia? Collection of contributions

Collection of contributions  Discussion No. 1 from 10 April to 8 May 2014
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia?
Collection of contributions
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
Topic introduction........................................................................................................................................................... 3
Contributions received .................................................................................................................................................. 5
1. Matraim Jusupov, Research Institute of Irrigation / FAO Consultant, Kyrgyzstan ..................... 5
2. Ralph Kurtzman, Micologia Aplicada International, United States of America ............................ 7
3. Paul Rigterink, Potomac Technical Advisors, United States of America ......................................... 7
4. KV Peter, India ......................................................................................................................................................... 8
5. Zarouali Said, HCP, Morocco .............................................................................................................................. 8
6. Bart Hilhorst, Qatar – Co-facilitator of the discussion ......................................................................... 11
7. Giovanni Munoz, FAO, Italy – Co-facilitator of the discussion ......................................................... 11
8. Bart Hilhorst, Qatar – Co-facilitator of the discussion ......................................................................... 11
9. Santosh Kumar Mishra, S. N. D. T. Women's University, India ......................................................... 12
10. Botir Dosov, Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research
Institutions, Uzbekistan ........................................................................................................................................ 13
11. Mohammad Shoaib Saboory, Shimane Unversity, Japan.................................................................. 15
12. Ovezdurdy Džumadurdyev, Project for the Adaptation Fund, Turkmenistan ........................ 19
13. Matraim Jusupov, Research Institute of Irrigation / FAO Consultant, Kyrgyzstan ............... 20
14. Markus Brauchli iDE / Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Kyrgyzstan ....................................... 21
15. Matraim Jusupov, Research Institute of Irrigation / FAO Consultant, Kyrgyzstan ............... 24
16. Ali Ibrahim Elkhalil , Sudan .......................................................................................................................... 24
17. Chris Perry , United Kingdom ...................................................................................................................... 25
18. Giovanni Munoz FAO, Italy ........................................................................................................................... 26
19. Thierry Facon, FAORAP, Thailand ............................................................................................................. 26
20. Chris Perry, United Kingdom ....................................................................................................................... 27
21. Charles M. Burt, California Polytechnic State University, United States of America ............ 28
22. Karen Frenken FAO, NRL, Italy ................................................................................................................... 29
23. Giovanni Munoz, FAO, Italy .......................................................................................................................... 29
24. Giovanni Munoz, FAO, Italy .......................................................................................................................... 29
25. Anura Widana , New Zealand ...................................................................................................................... 30
26. Giovanni Munoz and Bart Hilhorst, facilitators of the discussion ................................................ 32
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
Topic introduction
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia?
Dear Colleagues,
Welcome to the online discussion “What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia?”. This
three-week online discussion is initiated by the Global Food Security and Nutrition Forum (FSN
Forum) in close collaboration with Investment Centre Division, both based in Food and
Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO).
Water is a key element for food security and the management of water resources is of crucial
political importance. This is especially evident in areas in which a high percentage of agriculture
is based on irrigation with water coming from basins shared among several countries.
Against this background, FAO has been actively involved into preparation of several scenarios for
the future of irrigated agriculture in Central Asia.
Those activities were implemented within a project aimed to support water cooperation among
countries sharing the Aral Sea Basin by encouraging systematic thinking about the future.
Through a joint scenario thinking exercise, participants from all five Central Asia republics and
Afghanistan developed a scenario set for the year 2040 about the regional water-agriculturalenergy nexus. The results of the project was a collaborative work of the Executive Committee of
the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (EC-IFAS), the United Nations Regional Center for
Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia (UNRCCA) and the Investment Centre and the Sub-Regional
Office for Central Asia of FAO.
To know more about the project outputs and to learn about “scenario thinking”, we invite you to
read the background papers and to watch a short introductory video:
Scenario Thinking to Support Transboundary Water Cooperation in Central Asia
Introductory Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXk40xM_nZU
In order to stimulate and enrich this discussion, we would like to focus on the following guiding
1. What would be the first steps governments should take to create a regional
agricultural trade mechanism that ensures food supplies including during periods
of market shocks?
2. The threat of climate change is looming. What effective actions you think are
possible to undertake to cope with climate change in Central Asia without regional
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
3. The agricultural sector in Central Asia is under growing pressure to decrease water
use while at the same time guaranteeing food production. With these seemingly
contradictory objectives, what characteristics should agricultural development
have to achieve them?
4. Productivity gains in the agricultural sector require public and also private
investments. What mechanisms you can think of to promote private investments in
the agricultural sector in Central Asia in a responsible manner? What conditions
need to be met?
We are calling on stakeholders such as governments, civil society organizations, research
institutes, non-governmental organisations, developing projects and Water User Associations to
engage in a constructive dialogue.
The outcomes of the discussion will help the team of the Investments Centre and the Sub-Regional
Office for Central Asia and their partners from EC-IFAS and UNRCCA to advance the finalization of
the scenarios. Additionally, the discussion will contribute to the development of a dynamic food
security network for Europe and Central Asia that will be integrated into FAO’s overall global
activities on food security and nutrition issues.
Your answers, ideas and suggestions will support this process.
We look forward to a rich discussion and to receiving your inputs, which will help us refine and
finalize the scenarios.
Please feel free to circulate the invitation within your professional networks or to suggest us
people you think would be interested in taking part in online-discussion.
Thank you in advance,
Giovanni Munoz – Land and Water Development Engineer (FAO/TCIC)
Bart Hilhorst - Expert in transboundary water resources management, Consultant
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
Contributions received
1. Matraim Jusupov, Research Institute of Irrigation / FAO Consultant, Kyrgyzstan
Dear Colleagues,
I’m grateful to the facilitators of this Forum for giving us an opportunity to exchange views online,
to get to know positions of our colleagues from around the globe on many issues under
discussion. It’s helpful, it enriches our knowledge and gives new ideas. As one saying goes: “If you
and I each have one idea, after we exchange them, we both will have two ideas”. On the other
hand, such communication will bring us all together and will provide the basis for that big
platform, whereon such important questions of regional cooperation will be solved, and joint
ways to solve problems of irrigation agriculture will be determined.
As for the first question: Governments of Central Asian countries in the first place should decide
frontier problems. It is necessary to ensure that interstate agreements on trade relations actually
work. To give opportunity to rural areas, ail districts and rayons to establish trade relations with
their neighbors under the principle “bottom-up”. Countries’ governments will then only have to
guarantee these relations with mutual normative legal documents.
As for the second question: Yes, indeed, following the process of globalization of markets,
including food markets, global climate change is the next major challenge for the countries of
Central Asia as well as for the whole world. It is projected, that in the next 20 years river runoff
will increase due to intensive melting of glaciers. After the period of increased surface water-flow
in accordance with various climate scenarios, the reduction of flow is expected approximately up
to 43.6 - 88.4 percent from volume of flow in 2000 (see: The Kyrgyz Republic’s Second National
Communication to the United Nations Framework convention on climate change - Bishkek – 2009
– page 140). Increased upper bound of climatic zones and probable average annual temperature
rise will affect cultivated land area and agricultural crop yield. All of us shall now get ready for
these challenges. Climate change is not only due to drought, it could also be the opposite, heavy
precipitation, unstable climate, cold snap, unstable weather during the vegetational season, etc.,
which will negatively affect cultivation of agricultural crops and therefore their productivity. We
shall now, at these days, shift to effective water resources management, start implementation of
water-efficient and resource-saving crop production technologies, such as drip irrigation,
greenhouse and underfilm technologies, that reduce surface evaporation on the irrigated fields, as
well as other agricultural practices.
As for the third question: Yes, it is very hard for all of us to accept it. However, we need to know
and recognize that for many years we wastefully used water resources, applied between 2 to 5
times the actual volumes of water requirements, and wasted more than half of water along the
distributing networks before reaching the fields, which lead to rising of groundwater levels. We
raised the groundwater level, waterlogged irrigated areas of the downstream land-users and
exposed soil to resalinization. We didn’t consider waste waters after irrigation (it is almost half of
the water received from the water source, but with dissolved nutrients and fertilizers content),
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
didn’t try to retain, accumulate and reuse it. And now is the time to deal with these problems of
the past (and present).
As for the fourth question: Yes, indeed, agriculture of Kyrgyzstan has low investment
attractiveness. First of all, the agriculture of Kyrgyzstan is highly dependent on environmental
and climatic conditions. Good years alternate with fail-years, caused by drought, frost, heavy
precipitation, etc. Secondly, agricultural production is an activity with relatively low and unstable
incomes, which create a permanent dependence on external soft-term financing. Thirdly, small
sizes of farms cause small-scale production (average size of arable land on the farm in Kyrgyzstan
is 2.7 ha, including 1.9 ha of irrigated arable land).
Fourthly, if agricultural production itself is not under significant influence of regulatory approval
system, the processing and sales of products (including import-export operation) fall to the full
extent under inefficient, redundant and often corrupt government regulation.
Fifthly, Kyrgyzstan doesn’t have a developed system of certification of products, which is in
compliance with international standards. This situation keeps exports and incomes down. These
factors together reduce investment attractiveness of agricultural production.
Therefore, state sector should help farmers, even by means of indirect subsidies through
introduction of product pricing, taxation, etc., at national level.
For example, China with 193 million of farmers has the highest number of family farms (39% of
smallholder farmers of the world), India - 93 million or 23%, Indonesia and Bangladesh - 17
million each and Vietnam - 10 million.
334,000 of small family farms in Kyrgyzstan, which cultivate 79.2% of all arable land in the
country, are among the 3 billion people in the world living in rural areas, most of which accounts
for developing countries. Among them 2.5 billion are men and women engaged in family farming,
and the remaining 0.5 billion are agricultural workers. The agricultural sector employs 20 million
people of rural population in total. 1.5 billion out of 2.5 billion farmers cultivate 404 million of
land plots, which are less than 5 hectares each. The size of most of these land plots is less than 1
ha. According to O. Nagaetsa (2005) 87 % of the 500 million of small farms are of less than 2
hectares each.
Across the globe small-scale rural producers are the main food producers. In Asia they actually
produce 80% of food products needed to ensure food security in the region (RAP, 2013). Higher
productivity of family farms is a common practice due to extensive use of labor and means of a
family. A higher cropping intensity index and crop diversification, even with the availability of
small funds, could be observed here. Life has shown that such Asian countries as India supported
small family farms and were able to perform Green Revolution. Countries such as China after the
failure of collective farms in the matter of increase of productivity and agricultural production
began to support small farmers. Inverse relationship between farm size and productivity is a
powerful rationale to reform land policies, including redistribution of land in order to ensure
efficiency and equity. In fact countries that have implemented agricultural policies, which support
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
development of small holders, have significantly improved and led to benefits not only for
agricultural sector but for other sectors as well. Generally speaking, development of countries
such as Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam in Asia is due to long-term and strategic support
given to small farmers. As a result of increased output and diversification of products by farmers
due to state government investment, agricultural productivity has grown, which led to an increase
in farmers' income. It gave them an opportunity to purchase food for their families and invest
more money in agricultural production. In its turn, it has reduced poverty, hunger and
unemployment in rural areas. These measures stopped rural depopulation.
Currently family farming contributes to the global provisioning by supplying 70% of its
production. If support is obtained, small-scale farming will have a potential to increase its
productivity. It is a known myth that big agribusiness is more productive and efficient than family
farms, since productivity per worker in agribusiness is higher, mainly due to mechanization of the
production process, but this myth has long ago been demolished. In fact, in both developed and
developing countries it is proved that on family farms labor productivity per hectare is higher,
because they use more intensive farm production techniques. They cultivate crops that are better
adapted to the environment and available labor. For cultivation of small plots they use labor of
their families. Also they help to reduce unemployment in rural areas. Often family farms use their
excess income to expand their production. A family farmer who gets a good harvest or sells its
crops at a good price will always invest the extra money in his farm, because it is his main
livelihood. Even though these capital investments are not always effective, anyway, ultimate
benefits will be received by a family and it will help to further maintain a farm.
Therefore, if the government improves smooth functioning of agricultural sector, food sector and
recycling, private farmers will get an incentive, and they will spontaneously invest their money in
irrigated cropping.
2. Ralph Kurtzman, Micologia Aplicada International, United States of America
From my observations, although now a few years old, it would seem imperative that one first step
is to refurbish the irrigation system in northern Tajikistan. I am not an irrigation expert, so I do
not mean to prescribe detailed work, but I saw an almost completely broken system that was
used, breaks and all. The lost water represents water that cannot get to the Aral Sea and has a
negative effect on Tajik land. Meetings and proclamations will do nothing, money, materials and
labor are far more productive.
The Faculty of Agro-Technology at KBTTU has shown an interest in drip irrigation, but it is a
struggling institution that needs help with all of its activities.
3. Paul Rigterink, Potomac Technical Advisors, United States of America
I fully support this idea. Here are some other suggestions.
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
What would be the first steps governments should take to create a regional agricultural trade
mechanism that ensures food supplies including during periods of market shocks?
The government and FAO should investigate if there is enough farm equipment, fencing, seeds,
nursery stock, fertilizer, pest control, disease control, weed control, fungicides, packaging,
marketing expertise, transport, storage, and farm insurance to ensure food supplies (including
during periods of market shocks). In Afghanistan, the FAO spent a lot of effort to train women to
raise poultry. These Afghan women should be raising at least 300 chickens each now in my
opinion. If this is not the case, the FAO should investigate what additional measures are needed
to increase the poultry supply in Afghanistan. Similar comments could be made about grain
production, produce production, fruit production, raising goats (including are all the needed
veterinary supplies available?), etc. Obviously, farmers may have all the water they need and all
their crops could still die of disease. An integrated agriculture approach is needed if one wants to
ensure the food supply. If the agricultural supply chain is dependable, more people will invest in
food supply development.
Perhaps the land and water development people could show how they are working with other
types of agriculture experts to solve the food supply development problem.
4. KV Peter, India
Water is a limiting factor in agricultural productivity and more so in arid low humid climate.
Plants need water as it constitutes 75-80 percent of biomass.
There is free water inside the plants keeping turgidity and movement of metabolizes both
primary and secondary.
Bound water is inside the cellular membrane keeping nucleus and nuclear organelles turgid and
dynamic. Water loss in plants is through respiration and water requirement of crops is a function
of crops grown and productivity.
Exposure of tilled soil direct to open light causes evaporation.
Mulching checks evaporation to a large extent.
Zero tillage is reported very effective against soil water loss.
Precision farming is another technology minimizing water loss. Wind breaks once planted reduce
water evaporation.
Less water requiring crops are to be grown in areas of limited water availability.
Dr K V Peter
5. Zarouali Said, HCP, Morocco
[English translation]
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
A- The firstmeasures that governmentsshould take to create a regional agricultural trade
mechanismwhich will assure the supply of foodstuffs, including during periods of market shocks:
1- To establish conventions and contracts of regional cooperation facilitating the interchange of
basic farm produce. And this cannot happen without awakening policy makers to the importance
of regional integration based on the peoples’ overall interest;
2- As can be foreseen,the setting up of agricultural free trade agreements between countriesfor
the purpose of market equilibrium in respect of food products;
3- To facilitate the flow of capitalbetweencountries within the regionfor encouraging investments
in the farming sector and taking advantage ofexisting opportunities;
4- And indeed the incentives at production level and at trade chains contribute to a great extent to
increasing the offer.
B- The threat of climate change is looming. And this phenomenon does not have FRONTIERS and
each one of us is partly responsible. However, to attenuate the negative effects of climate change
the countries in the region must introduce a road map specific to regional and local conditions to
handle any unexpected threat.
C- The prevention of future threats from climate change is an effective way to manage better such
a critical situation which affects the region. In this sense a regional mobilization on the
importance of taking into account, in their commitments, the component CLIMATE CHANGE.
D- Ensuring sufficient agricultural production to meet demand and better optimize the available
water resources is a great CHALLENGE to which the decision-makers should have an immediate
response. In this sense, it is important to think of crop rotation and feeding customs of the
population in the region. These are two major factors to take into account in order to better
handle water resources.
E- A specific code for agricultural investments ought to be created to organize efficiently
thedirection ofinvestmentson the basis of bilateral contracts between Private and Public sectors.
The creation of a body dedicated to overseeing of agricultural plans is an undeniable need.
The creation of centers of agricultural competence is a means of increasing the choice of
agricultural investments. And the population´s integration, in particular farmers and the sharing
of neighboring countries experiences constitute a real pillar for the success of publicagricultural
Rural economy specialist
[Original contribution in French]
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
A- Les premières mesures que les gouvernements devraient prendre pour créer un mécanisme de
commerce agricole régional qui assure l'approvisionnement en denrées alimentaires, y compris
pendant les périodes de chocs de marché :
1- d’établir des conventions et des contrats de coopération régionale, qui facilitent les échanges
des produits agricole de base. Et il ne peut avoir lieu sans la sensibilisation des décideurs
politiques sur l’importance d’avoir une intégration régionale basé sur l’intérêt général de la
population ;
2- Comme on peut prévoir des accords agricole de libre échange entre pays, dans le but
d’équilibre les marchés en matière des produits alimentaires ;
3- de faciliter les flux des capitaux entre pays de la région pour encourager les investissements
dans le secteur agricole et profiter des opportunités existantes ;
4- et bien sur les incitations au niveau de la production, et des chaines de commercialisation
contribuent en grande partie l’augmentation de l’offre.
B- La menace du changement climatique est imminente. Et ce phénomène n’a pas de FRENTIERE,
et chacun de nous est responsable en partie. Cependant, pour atténuer les effets négatifs des
changements climatiques les pays de la région doivent mettre en commun une feuille de route
spécifique aux conditions régionales et locales pour faire face à toute menace inattendue.
C- La prévention des futures menaces des changements climatiques est un moyen efficace pour
mieux gérer une telle situation critique qui touche la région. Dans ce sens une mobilisation
régionale sur l’importance de prendre en considération, dans leurs engagements, la composante
D- Assurer une production agricole suffisante pour répondre à la demande et optimiser mieux les
ressources en eaux disponibles, constitue un grand DEFI auquel les décideurs doivent avoir une
réponse immédiate. Dans ce sens, il est important de penser aux assolements et aux habitudes
alimentaires des populations de la région. Ces deux facteurs majeurs sur lesquels on peut réagir
pour mieux gérer les ressources en eau.
E- Un code spécifique pour les investissements agricoles doive avoir lieu pour bien organiser les
orientations des investissements sur la base des contrats bilatéraux entre Privé et Public. La
création d’une institution dédiée à superviser les plans agricoles est une nécessité intournable.
La création des pôles de compétence agricole est un moyen de renforcer les choix des
investissements agricoles. Et l’intégration des population notamment les agriculteurs et
l’ouverture sur les expériences des pays voisins constitue un vrai pilier de réussite des politiques
publiques agricoles.
Spécialiste en Economie Rurale
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
6. Bart Hilhorst, Qatar – Co-facilitator of the discussion
Dear Dr. Matraim,
From your contribution I understand that small-holder farming will remain important in
Kyrgyzstan and is an integral part of the future agricultural landscape in the country (some 80%
of arable land is currently cultivated by smallholders).
Further, you indicate that climate change presents a major challenge – not only because of
droughts but also because of heavy precipitation, unstable weather, etc. A number of promising
climate change adaptation measures (such as improved land management that captures & stores
rainfall rather than letting it runoff, creating micro climates, etc.) need to be tailored to the local
geography & climate and are best implemented on smaller landholdings. Their widespread
uptake by smallholders may be the only way that significant areas of land can be treated/adapted
at a reasonable cost on a sustainable basis, and within a reasonable time span.
Based on the above two factors alone (and there are many more), the government has a keen
interest in improving the conditions of smallholders.
But where to start? You list many constraining factors – all of which are valid and in need of being
addressed. Obviously, measures cannot be implemented immediately & simultaneously (if only
because of managerial & financial resource constraints). Therefore, what are the key constraints
that need to be addressed first? Which combination of measures would have the highest impact?
And what can be postponed until a later point in time? Lastly, what needs to happen in order to
encourage private investment in smallholder farming?
7. Giovanni Munoz, FAO, Italy – Co-facilitator of the discussion
For those wanting to know more about the Central Asian region in terms of their facts and figures
for water resources, irrigation and environment, I invite them to see our AQUASTAT General
Summary for the Central Asian Region available at:
8. Bart Hilhorst, Qatar – Co-facilitator of the discussion
Food security & food price stability are a critical concern to governments in Central Asia, and are
at the basis of food self-sufficiency policies in a number of Central Asian countries. Consequently,
a large volume of water is used every year to irrigate staple food.
Establishing long-term regional agricultural trade mechanisms (that guarantee wheat delivery at
pre-agreed and affordable prices in times of deficient domestic production & high global wheat
prices) will make a real contribution in reducing pressure on the region’s water resources. With
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
abundant (rainfed) land resources in Kazakhstan and Russia, such mechanisms should be
possible in principle.
How can this potential be captured? What are the constraining factors in establishing such longterm arrangements?
9. Santosh Kumar Mishra, S. N. D. T. Women's University, India
1. What would be the first steps governments should take to create a regional agricultural
trade mechanism that ensures food supplies including during periods of market shocks?
To encourage innovation, the following four types of policies are important:
Formulating science and technology policy: to promote innovation, facilitate trade in technology,
protect the public from potential risks of new technologies, and define the expected future roles
of the public and private service providers and their interaction, the comparative advantage and
mandates for central, sub-national, and local research institutes, and the role of universities.
Protecting intellectual property rights: While rules about intellectual property rights (IPRs) are
controversial, such rules are becoming increasingly important as the role of the private sector in
international agricultural research grows and biotechnology becomes more important. Clear rules
protecting IPRs are important for three main reasons. First, they encourage domestic innovation
and encourage the transfer of technologies based on assurance that the recipient country will
provide protection for patents and corporate health, safety, and efficacy data as well as being able
to recoup their investments in proportion to their scale and risk.
Harmonizing standards and regulations for seed certification and trade in plants and animals:
Harmonizing standards for seed certification and agricultural trade will bring significant benefits
by facilitating exchange of seeds, planting materials, and animals among countries and by
reducing transaction costs for firms. Harmonizing standards will also foster development of a
regional market for seeds, plants and animals, which will allow firms to benefit from economies of
Investing in capacity building for the long term: Capacity development is a process of planned
organizational change that is intended to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability
with which an organization pursues its strategy, accomplishes its mission, achieves its goals, and
delivers value to stakeholders. Capacity development may include the acquisition of resources,
but it must also include learning how to nurture, integrate, and deploy resources to achieve
strategic goals.
2. The threat of climate change is looming. What effective actions you think are possible to
undertake to cope with climate change in Central Asia without regional cooperation?
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change will require large cuts in global greenhouse
gas emissions. Humans produce greenhouse gases by burning coal, oil, and natural gas to
generate energy for power, heat, industry, and transportation. Deforestation and agricultural
activity also yield climate-changing emissions.
3. The agricultural sector in Central Asia is under growing pressure to decrease water use
while at the same time guaranteeing food production. With these seemingly contradictory
objectives, what characteristics should agricultural development have to achieve them?
Non-traditional crops often require considerable technological sophistication relative to
traditional crops, as they are new to the region, or require special care at harvest because of
perishability or the need to meet demanding cosmetic standards. The risk of crop failure due to
insect pests, disease or inadequate agronomic practices is much higher than in traditional crops.
Access to technology, however, is biased against the small-scale producers. Large farms can afford
to hire the foreign expertise and buy the equipment needed, whereas small farmers usually rely
on extension services which may or may not be provided. Quality control is also a new problem
for small farmers not accustomed to the exigencies of foreign markets. It favours those producers
who are able to hire foreign consultants. Peasants may have grown a certain product all their
lives. However, the family and local markets had very different standards for appearance, insect
presence and damage. In extreme cases, export to foreign markets may be closed to small farmers
who do not have the technical knowledge or money to meet the appearance and quality standards
4. Productivity gains in the agricultural sector require public and also private investments.
What mechanisms you can think of to promote private investments in the agricultural
sector in Central Asia in a responsible manner? What conditions need to be met?
Policy dialogue for local private-sector development;
Investment operations to support local private-sector development; and
Partnership with the private sector to leverage additional investments and bring knowledge to
rural areas.
10. Botir Dosov, Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research
Institutions, Uzbekistan
The existing problems were caused by many factors, and present an economic legacy from
previous decades and century, and thus resolving these problems cannot be achieved in a short
term perspective, while current and forthcoming threats require undertaking immediate action.
The present situation is so fragile, that any incorrect measures can worsen the situation.
Therefore first of all, all state and every land and water user should acknowledge that water is our
common asset, and we need to preserve it with better condition for future when population
growth and climate change will transform from threats to the problems. Food security depends
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on agricultural commodities and productivity, agricultural productivity depends on soil
productivity, which in turn depends on water use in Central Asia. This is a simple linear chain,
though in reality the Food security system conjugates with many other systems: agricultural
productions systems, including new stress-, salinity-, drought-, frost-tolerant fruits, vegetable,
cereals other crop varieties and animal breeds, conservation land management, integrated pest
management; rural advisory systems; markets, infrastructure: roads, communication, irrigation
and drainage, electricity, post-harvest and processing technologies, enabling institutional
environments, and many others. And any of them can be considered as a priority, and neglecting
one aspect can cause diverse negative implication for future with food security.
The Background document presenting Scenario thinking to support transboundary water
cooperation in Central Asia is very important achievement in considering Future for Irrigated
Agriculture in Central Asia.
Preliminary insights from the scenarios:
1. Four groups of concerted policy interventions seem very justifiable, but the content of those
generic groups should not miss any particularities: For example: Second group of interventions
“2) effective support to the agricultural sector” should also include agricultural research, Rural
advisory services and extension, agricultural education with emphasis on Food security and
climate change, agricultural innovations and etc., 3) establishment of effective farmers’
organizations in the irrigation areas. Concerning fourth group of interventions “4) large public
and private investments in irrigation infrastructure and the agricultural sector” the part of public
investments might be considered as governmental organizations commitments, while “private
investments”, in particular to improving the irrigation systems seem to be very ambitious, and
need creating effective incentive mechanisms. And definitely “Measures have to be implemented
in concert”.
2. “Investments in irrigation and water resources infrastructure (hard component) with enabling
institutional environment (org component)” is very important, should be supported by technical
support (soft component) from diversity of donor: public, private and foreign. Without drastically
growth of investments into rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage infrastructure any efforts
could be inefficient.
3. ”Real improvements in agricultural productivity seem only possible if sufficient funds start
flowing into the sector for operation and maintenance of irrigation schemes (O&M) at farm and
tertiary level” is true. But, until agri-business in the region is not profitable, private sector
investments inflows to agriculture would be intangible. Agricultural insurance systems should be
developed to reduce the risk in agricultural business.
5. Strengthening the regional cooperation in agricultural trade to attain food security would lay
base for many sectorial initiatives, leading for example, to more efficient use of water, which
depends not only on establishing collaborative agreements, but also science-based approaches.
For instance, scientist may contribute to more efficient water use mechanisms by identifying soil
conditions, where a particular variety of a certain crop is cultivated, and thus, calculating how
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much water is need during particular period. Out-scaling technologies, such as drip irrigation,
zero-tillage, crop-rotation etc., as well as information support and rural advisory services can also
be considered as indispensable contribution of agricultural researchers and scientists, as well as
extension agents to transferring technologies to farmers, i.e. land and water users, pastoralists
and agro-pastoralists.
6. Considering a climate change as a real risk is timely especially in Central Asia. The
consequences of climate change have a negative impact on agriculture in the region, which has
already been affected by the severe outcomes of the recent global economic crisis. In addition
projected population growth, particularly of the urban population, will increase demand for food
and prices, which in turn will result in even greater use of limited natural resources. Ultimately,
these problems are a particular threat to vulnerable groups, including to people with low
incomes. Thus, societies face the challenge of solving these problems, and it is necessary to take
action to ensure peaceful, sustainable development and food security in the CA region. And again,
it becomes a challenge for agricultural science and research to develop and test climate smart
technologies, and in cooperation with other social actors of sector transfer those technologies to
the field. This also will require equipping famers with innovative knowledge and scaling out best
practices, for example by expanding demonstration plots, innovation fairs, farmers’ days, peerlearning etc.
Given above-mentioned thoughts, a creating and implementation of a Comprehensive Regional
Innovative Agricultural Development Program would be programmatic approach to support
regional cooperation and follow-up appropriate actions. This program may focus on:
sustainable land management and efficient water use systems;
increasing market access through improved rural infrastructure and other trade-related
increasing food supply across the region by increasing smallholder productivity and
improving responses to food emergencies;
improving agricultural innovation systems to disseminate new technologies, and
increasing the support given to help farmers to adopt them.
11. Mohammad Shoaib Saboory, Shimane Unversity, Japan
Bill Gates proved that “We can make the future sustainable when we invest in the poor, not when
we insist on their suffering”.
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The sustainable management of river basins and watershed resources in order to meet demand of
growing population has been a high priority for many countries over the past several decades.
Therefore, development and management of water resources are critically important for the
economic development of central Asia. In order to take a step on development and management
mentioned countries we should consider these parameters; population, poverty, development,
immigration as well as food and energy production.
Based on an estimation of (FAO/WFP 2001) five million Afghans lives as refugees around the
world and still their immigration is continuing due to instability and poverty. An estimation
(Klemm and Shobair, 2010) to subdivide the average annual flow of the Amu River by riparian
country shows that Afghanistan contributes to 27.5 % of the river flow, i.e. the second big
contributor but it`s irrigated land is less than one million hectares (15 %), while the other
riparian have 2.3 million hectares Uzbekistan (43 %), 1.7 million hectares Turkmenistan (31 %)
and 0.5 million hectares Tajikistan (9 %).
Afghanistan haven`t sufficient energy to meet its economic needs. Despite of, its relatively low
rate of energy consumption, the development of some reserves of natural gas and oil are
necessary and Afghanistan still imports energy in the form of oil and electricity. The other
parameter is development a base pillars of a country that Afghanistan is surprisingly improving
so in this regard to run on its agriculture and industries their water demand will become higher.
Question 1- What would be the first steps governments should take to create a regional
agricultural trade mechanism that ensure food supplies including during periods of
market shocks?
Discussion; Based on records there are several agreements signed among these countries and the
most notable are the 1921, 1946 and 1958 agreements, focusing primarily on the issues of related
border between Afghanistan and Soviet Union of that time. Those above agreements, based on
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international law principle, are still applicable. However no agreements exist regarding water
allocation in the form of volume or share between the parties.
Hence, after consultation and collaboration with the riparian’s of Amu River in order to sign a
water sharing agreement is highly important step that governments should consider. Although
Afghan and Tajik water diversion is likely to increase from the current low levels, water
management improvements in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan should compensate for additional
water use by Afghanistan and Tajikistan, supply additional water to the Aral Sea, and enhance
those riparian’s productivity of irrigated agriculture. The significant amounts of drainage water
now being generated that are at present evaporated in desert sinks could be better used. Water
application for several crops including cotton and rice is several times more in Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan than any other place in the world and could be reduced. Farm management practice
such as simple and inexpensive land leveling could reduce application significantly. At present the
average level of drainage effluent in the Amu River Basin (Particularly by Uzbekistan and
Turkmenistan) is about 5,000 m³/ha which could be easily be reduced to 3,000 m³/ha with
improved water management practices. This would result in additional water saving of about 8
billion m³ (taking 4 million ha of irrigated area in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the Amu River
Basin), much more than possible increase in water use of Afghanistan and Tajikistan from Amu
In another hand, based on Afghan master plans to annihilate food poverty and decrease
immigration to neighboring countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries as well as
producing hydropower implementation of many projects are listed to be done in Amu River. In
light of Afghanistan`s potential for productive irrigated agriculture, the government recently
trying to start work on Khush Tapa Irrigation system for development of almost one million
hectares that would have been irrigated directly from Amu River. As well as construction of
Kokcha Hydropower dam (8,000 KWh) and Khanabad Irrigation projects would be implement by
Afghans to irrigate around 94,000 hectares of fertile land from Amu River.
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Considering, above issues and consultations on technical aspects such as sharing hydrometeorological data and also their management and analyses, signing the water sharing
agreement between riparian’s of Amu River a great regional trade mechanism will be establish
and food security would become sustainable.
Question 2- The threat of climate change is looming. What effective actions you think are
possible to undertake to cope with climate change in central Asia without regional
Discussion; Climate change is a big calamity in all over the world and its affection caused hug
desertification and drought. As a possible individual action, restoration of the forests’ along the
river basin is the best suitable logical way of controlling the climate change. Rainwater harvesting
as great technology for dry areas and it is an alternative to restore the forests and reduce soil
erosion that each country can do it without regional cooperation and global assistance.
Introducing cultivars which has low crop water requirement and has resistance against climatic
calamity is another issue to cope individually by countries. As an example; in Balkh province of
Afghanistan where thousand hectares of pomegranates damaged due to climate change since last
decade so to annihilate this problem introducing new resistant cultivars are the only alternative.
Since climate change will be very serious common problems in the Amu river basin, basin-wide
regional organization should be set up to deepen and share the knowledge on available water
resources, their variability and dependency on accelerated glacier melting in the headwater of
Amu river basin.
Question 3- The agriculture sector in central Asia is under growing pressure to decrease
water use while at the same time guaranteeing food production. With these seemingly
contradictory objectives, what characteristics should agriculture development have to
Discussion; usually, food production in developing countries has many problems and some of the
remarkable challenges are related to water management and water usage. Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan is irrigating the largest cotton and paddy fields which is using huge amount of water.
In order to decrease water use and guarantee food production these mentioned countries should
change their cropping pattern (wheat) and investment on farm water management as well as
introducing those varieties with low crop water requirement.
Question 4- Productivity gains in the agricultural sector require public and also private
investments. What mechanism you can think of to promote private investments in the
agriculture sector in central Asia in a responsible manner? What condition needs to be
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Discussion; Of course, investment has a direct impact on productivity of food. The agricultural
agreement between Netherlands and Thailand is the best example for Asian countries. It means
that if we can`t manage so it`s better to find those capable resources which are interested and
needed. Based on my understanding from Afghanistan the logical way to promote investment on
agriculture sector in is governmental support and paving the way for investors. Those developed
needed countries which are have limited land and needs more food like Japan should be involved
in these area for better future. Centuries ago deserts of Balkh, Jawazjan and Faryab provinces
were under cultivation of grains which were irrigating from Amu River but unfortunately due to
wars the canals were damaged and all of the lands turned to bare and now in order to rehabilitate
the project again it requires investment. As well as at the same time, transportation, postharvesting and marketing facilities should be provided in the livelihood zone of the Amu river
Shoaib Saboory
12. Ovezdurdy Džumadurdyev, Project for the Adaptation Fund, Turkmenistan
Costs of food production in developed countries are significantly lower as compared with
developing countries; therefore export of products from developing countries is impossible. Sales
of all volume of production at local market, even at prime cost, are not realistic, due to lower
quantity demanded. The term “sustainable use of water resources” is double-edged:
1. To get maximum output in terms of money per each m3of water used;
2. To get maximum quantity of food in terms of money or physical quantity per each m3of water
In any case, in order to ensure sustainable use of water resources it is necessary to cultivate such
type of crops that give maximum yield per water used. In this light, it is unprofitable to cultivate
wheat in irrigated areas, as well as to cultivate cotton with low yields. And it is still unreal for
developing countries to get high yield. Therefore, nowadays the need for integration of the
economies in Central Asia comes to the fore. It requires intergovernmental agreements that are
trusted not only by the signatories, but also by developed countries, as they would guarantee
validity of such agreement.
The term “Food security” means, that developing countries can’t trust developed countries with
food supply. Without such trust each developing country will cultivate economically unprofitable
food crops, such as wheat, rice, etc.
Interstate agreements for trade relations per se are of no use, if parties do not implement them.
Therefore, agreement still does not mean trust. Trust appears as a result of repeated systematical
compliances with agreement by signatories. Hence, the future of irrigated agriculture depends
entirely on confidence between countries and private investors. Depending on the expected
mutual trust it is possible to predict the following development scenarios for irrigated agriculture
in Central Asia:
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Development scenarios for water management in Central Asia
On the basis of these scenarios, first steps to be taken by governments are interstate regional
trade agreement and assurance of a single water policy in the region. Without regional
cooperation it is impossible to address the challenge of climate change in Central Asia.
13. Matraim Jusupov, Research Institute of Irrigation / FAO Consultant, Kyrgyzstan
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Dear Bart Hilhorst,
Thank you for your valuable comments. In general, I support your arguments. I would like to give
some explanation to your questions. Indeed, nowadays smallholders play an important role for
Kyrgyzstan. In fact, the reform, which has been initiated in the early 90-ies of the previous
century, and public policy strategy in the field of agriculture, both did not pursue such a goal. In
fact, plans were that after legally privatizing their land, smallholders were supposed to enlarge
gradually; this process was to be encouraged by agrarian laws. Unfortunately, due to lack of
consistency of reforms and adequate support from the government caused by scarcity of state
budget, smallholders have been developing at a very slow pace for the past 20 years, while
experiencing enormous difficulties.
Being specialists in water resources management, we know that in the context of water scarcity it
is very difficult to provide required irrigation regime to smallholders; this situation results in low
crop yields. Small-scale plots of land in the shape of strips do not allow gaining sufficient income.
This situation complicates access to financial resources, goods and services. Efforts to establish
cooperatives, clusters, and “top-bottom” processing schemes didn’t give expected outcomes.
Amalgamation or cooperation of smallholders - farms (334 thousand across the country) is
almost impossible. Therefore, this process should use a "bottom-up" scheme. Currently,
smallholders spontaneously began to meld in accordance with crops they cultivate. It is a sort of
clustering. They forespeak with one of local processors and all cultivate the same crop. Each of
them maintains ownership of his land property and all participating neighbors use crop
cultivation technology cycles in the same way and simultaneously (i.e. plowing, sowing, irrigation,
processing, harvesting and sales). Most importantly, irrigation technology is followed here in
compliance with irrigation regime. Of course, irrigation canals previously were designed to the
conditions of former collective and state farms with due consideration for large areas. It had
affected carrying capacity of irrigation system. As a result of land and agrarian reform in the
country hundreds of thousands of smallholders were formed. Land fragmentation, different
species composition of cultivated plants on small land plots complicated water allocation; this has
led to reduction of yields by almost 2-3 times. Incomes stopped covering expenses; as a result
farmers became unwilling to cultivate their land. Beginning of such a process of creating
associations of smallholders, should be based on general principles of existing and functioning
associations of farmers-water users (WUAs), that is in compliance with drainage principle (i.e.
farmers, who get water from one canal joining one WUA). When it formerly used to be around
500 collective and state farms, nowadays at the same territory there is a similar number of WUAs
On the basis of obtaining irrigation water from one canal, farmers joined together that is one of
the best forms of cooperation. Following appropriate training and persuasion, it is feasible and
easy to restore the system of crop rotation on the territory of WUAs. It will improve soil fertility of
their fields. Yields will increase. Smallholders' income will grow. Farmers will be motivated to
invest in agriculture. It will be the beginning of a process of recovery from a long, protracted
agricultural crisis.
Matraim Jusupov, expert on agriculture and water resources management
14. Markus Brauchli iDE / Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Kyrgyzstan
In Central Asia I can only speak about the countries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And in my
contribution to this discussion I will take a very narrow focus and argue for the necessity in both
countries to introduce water productivity-enhancing irrigation technologies to decrease water
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use while at the same time guaranteeing food production. These technologies have to be
introduced in a financially sustainable manner.
Let me elaborate on this:
In both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan agriculture is an essential source of economic growth; it
produces about 20% of GDP and occupies over 50% of the labor force. Nevertheless, poverty
remains much more pronounced in rural-agricultural areas. To increase the potential of the
Kyrgyz and Tajik agriculture, the productivity of the agricultural sector needs to be increased, the
reliability of irrigation water improved and the degradation of the soil through salinization needs
to be stopped.
Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are upstream countries in a region where water use for
agriculture is a source for conflict. Increasing water productivity upstream eventually increases
water availability downstream. This is valid at regional, national and local level, i.e. along the
same irrigation channel. The problem of water availability will be further exacerbated by global
warming, which e.g. will cause a retreat of the glaciers. Annual water flow is expected to increase
in the coming 20 years, but not evenly through the year. After that less water flow is anticipated,
combined with more scarcity and variation in summer rainfall. Extreme weather events are
expected to increase, which means more years with water deficits. Studies show that this is
already happening. In both countries over 70% of the irrigation is based on canal networks and
often there are conflicts between the head-end users who usually have enough water and the tailend users who have no security that they receive water at all.
Water however is considered a resource free of charge (“gift of God”), and farmers hold that only
the irrigation infrastructure should be paid for. Many farmers do not have much knowledge about
how to irrigate efficiently; water charges are usually based on the area irrigated, not the quantity
used, so there are little financial incentives to invest in technologies that save water.
The irrigation infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating as it is based mostly on Soviet-era gravity
canal systems, which are in bad repair. As a result, a large part of the irrigated area does not have
sufficient water during the maximum demand season.
Both countries have severe problems with erosion and salinization, which negatively impact soil
fertility. There are frequent landslides, especially during the rainy season. In Tajikistan 12% of
Khatlon’s and 18% of Sughd’s irrigated lands have salinization problems, consequently
depressing food production. In many regions, restoration requires re-integration of suitable
shrub and tree species, e.g. in form of agro-forestry. However, tree and bush seedlings planted
require artificial irrigation during the first years.
Often irrigation water needs to be pumped to a level from where it can flow to the field. The pump
systems usually depend on external energy sources - mainly electric, less often diesel. Dating from
Soviet times, these pumps are not energy-efficient and cannot be connected to a renewable
energy source. In Tajikistan this is reflected in the comparatively high cost of irrigation water,
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around US$ 0.10/m³. In Kyrgyzstan farmers usually pay a lump-sum according to their land size,
but often install and maintain privately-owned pumping systems.
In both countries, food prices in 2013 increased to the highest levels since 2002. Tajikistan
imports approximately 60% of its food items and Kyrgyzstan approximately 40%. Higher water
productivity will ultimately enable increased local food production.
Farmers still practice wasteful flood or furrow irrigation, which are little productive in terms of
water and yield. Also most of the rural poor practice subsistence or semi-subsistence farming and
depend on a multifunctional agriculture, including livestock farming that does not have a strong
focus on productivity increase. Low income from agriculture causes migration. Especially - but
not only - young men are migrating both in-country to urban centers, and abroad. Therefore
agricultural labor force has become a limiting factor.
In scenario thinking for 2040 I would thus argue that both countries need to adopt water
productivity enhancing technologies, such as drip irrigation that will enable the production of
more food with less water. However, these technologies need to be differentiated from
conventional high-cost micro-irrigation technologies and have an affordable design in order to be
of use in the low-resource settings of Kyrgyzstan (2012 GDP per capita, PPP, US$ 2400) and
Tajikistan (US$ 2’200).
For instance gravity-fed drip can be up to ten times cheaper than conventional drip depending on
plot and plant spacing and thus allows small and medium-scale fruit and vegetable farmers to
take it up with less cost and risk. It can be built with environmentally-friendly plastics, works
without artificial pressure and is easily expandable for plots larger than 20 m². Many of its
components can be manufactured locally and local commercial agents can assemble affordable
irrigation technologies, brand it and establish financially viable supply chains.
Gravity-fed drip has the same advantages as conventional drip which are listed below.
Collectively, these advantages allow to have high impact on producing more food with less water
and to greatly enhance agricultural productivity:
To conserve water
To save energy for pumping
To save fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides
To increase yield and get higher-quality crops
To decrease work load for irrigation, weeding and field preparation
To cultivate new plots and restore idle plots
To efficiently manage plots, as farmers start planning what crops to plant where and when
and what amounts of inputs are necessary at what crop stage
To avoid soil erosion and salinization
Presently no drip systems are widely available in the Kyrgyz or Tajik market. Conventional drip
manufacturers such as Israeli Netafim, US Toro or Indian Jain are not selling into these markets
nor are any distribution networks being developed by them, even if they manufacture in China.
There is simply not enough demand for such high-priced technologies.
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However, if one looks at the land rights of farmers, in Tajikistan since 1992, the government-led
land reform process has motivated farmers to invest in their lands. In 2012 over 55’000 small and
medium-size family farms with land certificates (dekhan farms) were operating, each with an
average of about 10 ha of arable land. This is a fivefold increase, since 2002 when there were only
about 10’000 dekhan farms operating. In Kyrgyzstan over 98% of arable land (1.372 m ha) is in
small peasant farms and household plots. In 2011, there were around 345’000 peasant farms
averaging 2.9 ha each and over 726’000 household plots averaging 0.11 ha each. Both types of
farms hold legal property rights for their land holdings; there is thus incentive to invest long-term
in these lands, including in irrigation infrastructure.
Chances are thus high that in 2040 we see a Kyrgyz and Tajik agricultural sector that uses
affordable micro-irrigation technologies that increase water productivity, subsequently
agricultural productivity and where the private sector is strongly engaged.
15. Matraim Jusupov, Research Institute of Irrigation / FAO Consultant, Kyrgyzstan
Future of the irrigated agriculture in Central Asia shall be achieved step by step, and on the basis
1) Strict record of irrigation water use and consumption;
2) Mass adaptation of water-saving technologies;
3) Compliance with crops irrigation regimes and irrigation technologies;
4) Water and land resources utilization efficiency improvement;
5) Increasing of soil fertility, and soil protection against degradation and impoverishment.
Transition to stable and dynamic development of agriculture is an extremely difficult problem in
all its aspects, and it requires effective management, comprehensive and integrated problems
solving, and efficient redeployment of resources.
However, in virtue of specifics of the current status and conditions for development of economic,
social, environmental and institutional pillars of sustainable development in the region, the
dynamics of the movement towards the ultimate aim cannot be straight and steady.
Only by the means of effective management and achievement of midline parameters of
sustainable development in each sub-sector through regulatory, engineering and manufacturing
consolidation of these results, it could be possible to proceed to the next step, which will use
achievements of the previous stage as a basis for the movement towards development.
16. Ali Ibrahim Elkhalil , Sudan
My comments on this issue are:
These group of states have to sign a multilateral agreement in between them to plan for the future
of agriculture together & agree on what to be produced, how much, & who of the states will
produce what & the means of production taking into cosideration available water resources
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which will of course be subject to negative impact of climate change. That step would ensure the
flow of food supplies in between them even during chocks effective actions to reduce the threat of
climate change is the use of agreed upon irrigation technologies that will enable rational
utilization of water resources because some states individual actions might affect its other
neighbours taking into consideration shared water resources.
Promotion of private sector investments in agriculture need:
1-political stability
2-good infrastructure
3- encouraging macro & micro economic policies
4-permanent source of irrigation water
5- free movement of commodities in between this group of states in this case.
17. Chris Perry , United Kingdom
I am rather dismayed at the opening paragraph of your “solutions”, which states:
Inefficient water use – in particular in the irrigation sector – is the main reason for the rising
pressure on the region’s water resources and the associated fears of future (seasonal) water
deficits, which is at the root of the differing views on water allocation among the riparians.
It is obvious that improving water use efficiency in the agricultural sector is central to addressing
the water allocation question in the region. Efficiency increases in the irrigation sector of 40% or
more were reported to be feasible. In this case, possible irrigation development in Afghanistan
could be easily accommodated.
First, decide what you mean by “efficiency”. Water use efficiency is a PRODUCTIVITY term (eg
kg/m3), while “irrigation efficiency” is the dimensionless ratio between (typically) water
available at one point in the system, and water consumed by the crop.
Once you have properly made that distinction (and the glossary in FAO’s AQUASTAT will give you
full guidance), you will probably decide that you actually meant engineering efficiency…
Before you go too far down that simplistic road of recommending lining, drip, sprinkler, etc etc, be
very sure that you understand the local hydrology because many “losses” return to the system. I
attach a paper by Pasquale Steduto, Richard Allen, Charles Burt and myself that will hopefully
clarify these matters. The residents of Central Asia certainly deserve better advice than implied
by the discussion so far! I suggest you begin by defining water entitlements at a sustainable level
and watch how clearly the users will maximise the benefits derived from such rights.
The worst possible scenario (which is the most likely outcome of the tone so far) is that you
intervene to make abstraction more profitable, which in turn increases demand and makes
scarcity more severe.
Regards, Chris Perry
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18. Giovanni Munoz FAO, Italy
Dear Chris,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
When we refer to the importance of improving “water use efficiency” we are of course aware of
our AQUASTAT definition and we mean indeed improving productivity. Independent studies in
the region show that productivity (kg/m3) in the region are very low when compared to similar
agro-ecosystems worldwide. Therefore, the call for improved productivity or water use
efficiency is not new in the region, it was just captured it through the participatory process
described in the introduction to this on-line discussion.
Secondly, irrigation efficiency is also very low in Central Asia. The large irrigation schemes
developed mostly during the 1960’s with the main objective of growing cotton, have changed
substantially since then. Nowadays there are millions of small farmers instead of few large state
and collective farms and crop diversification has increased significantly. The economic crisis
brought about after the demise of the Soviet Union meant that, the old systems have not received
the necessary investments to accommodate the new reality and irrigation efficiency has dropped
due to dilapidating irrigation infrastructure and poor on-farm practices. All of this is exacerbated
by the tensions among the new independent Republics of Central Asia over the allocation of the
shared water resources with its intrinsic link to hydro-energy production. The Aral Sea Basin is
what is known as a “closed” basin, where water does not flow for a number of months to the Aral
Sea anymore given the over extractions during the peak of the irrigation season.
For this complex reality there are no silver bullets. If you see our methodology for preparing
irrigation modernization plans (MASSCOTE www.fao.org/nr/water/topics_irrig_masscote.html)
you will know that we do not take the concept of modernization lightly.
There are several sources of information we have made available for those willing to go beyond
the surface and willing to give some serious thoughts and suggestions.
Your further ideas will be most welcome.
Best regards, Giovanni Munoz
19. Thierry Facon, FAORAP, Thailand
Dear Giovanni,
Reading the paragraphs quoted by Chris, it appears obvious that everybody will think that what is
meant there is engineering efficiency and would bet her blouse on this impression, which is
strengthened by your reply.
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So even if what was meant was actually productivity, this type of ambiguous statement should
absolutely be banned. Statements, even well-meant, that have 100% chances of being
misinterpreted, with the classical consequences mentioned by Chris, must be avoided. So chris’s
intervention is justified. If you think that agronomic water productivity and irrigation efficiency
should both be improved, just say so. You might also give a thought how these terms are used by
economists: efficient water use or efficient use of water. Well, maybe you also think that should
be improved, and that should be a 3rd recommendation.
I would also re-phrase the 2nd paragraph. It gives the impression that Afghanistan re-establishing
a fair share of water entitlements is conditional to downstream countries improving things. It is of
course good to think about plans for shared basins that benefit both upstream and downstream
countries, but you need to be very careful about the language and how it can be interpreted,
especially as assisting Afghanistan in these areas should be a priority.
You are encouraging us to go beyond the surface. I will go below. Please find attached a paper
with some thoughts on Central Asia, related to groundwater and drainage.
Best regards, Thierry
20. Chris Perry, United Kingdom
Dear Giovanni:
I think Thierry confirms my concerns, and hope you can clarify in the web discussion what you
actually mean in your various uses of the word “efficiency”.
You might also, when talking about water use efficiency, confirm whether the “m3” you refer to
means water APPLIED, or water CONSUMED. There is a great deal of confusion around that topic,
and I attach another paper published in Ag Water Management on that issue. The paper was
jointly agreed by the editors in chief of that journal because we receive so many submissions
which confuse the topic, reporting vast increases in WUE which quite literally “evaporate” when
subjected to serious scrutiny. In fact in some areas of the Aral Sea basin, my impression is that
high lifts plus saline aquifers mean that there would be significant potential benefits to improving
engineering efficiency — but to determine this, you have to do the accounts correctly to identify
what component of the non-consumed fraction is non-recoverable. Generalised ideas of
“increasing efficiency” are not an adequate guide!
I am also trying to obtain the reports of an International Panel of Experts (sorry — I did not
choose the title!) comprising Don Blackmore, Bill Smith, Eugene Stakhiv and myself who reported
on the Word Bank’s efforts in the region about ten years ago. Our conclusion was that the priority
was to establish the rules of water allocation among the countries, which in turn would allow the
various sectors and projects to understand what their allocation is with some certainty. All this
will underpin any successful re-organisation of the irrigation sector at the bottom end.
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Regards, Chris
Уважаемый Джованни!
21. Charles M. Burt, California Polytechnic State University, United States of America
Just a quick note –
“inefficiency” of field irrigation is not the same as having an inefficient gasoline engine. If you
have a 20% efficiency in a gas engine, it means that all the fuel is gone and you extracted 20% of
the power out of it. If you have a 30% efficiency, you have still used all the fuel, but you extracted
a larger percentage of the power. But the fuel is gone, gone, gone.
With a 50% irrigation efficiency of field irrigation – without getting into all the details – the basic
concept is that 50% of the applied irrigation water was beneficially used. BUT – and here’s the
HUGE difference – the other 50% of the water didn’t just disappear. The real issue is “where did it
go, and what are the consequences of only having 50% beneficial use at that point of use?” In
general evaporation losses are much lower than people imagine – we have a huge set of
references on this on our web site (www.itrc.org). So most of the water that was not used
beneficially remains as liquid – and is typically recycled elsewhere in a project or basin via
groundwater pumping or surface water diversions.
In the end, one just needs to sit back and look at the big picture for a basin. If there aren’t many
surface flows leaving the basin, and the groundwater levels aren’t rising (indeed, they are
commonly dropping in the world due to groundwater overdraft), there really isn’t any magic – the
water is being consumed within the basin. The more recirculation there is, the higher the overall
basin efficiency tends to be. Bottom line – in most of the world, we just don’t have enough water
and on-farm water conservation will not produce substantial new quantities of water that can be
transferred. Exceptions tend to be on coasts – where inefficiencies flow directly into the ocean.
So – what is the solution? Once everyone realizes that there isn’t any magic and we just don’t
have much extra water floating around, the question gets down to how to maximize the
productivity per unit of water consumed, how to minimize the flow of water to salt sinks, how to
maximize first-time efficiencies to (maximize yields, reduce energy consumption, and decrease
fertilizer and pesticide leaching/runoff). So there are many, many reasons to have good field
irrigation efficiencies – but the idea that this will produce more water and enable more land to be
irrigated is typically not correct and is instead very misleading. In fact, if all of the water is
currently being used in a basin, an improvement in on-farm irrigation efficiencies will usually
increase the evapotranspiration per acre (less bare spots, healthier plants). Typically, this
negative consequence is more than offset by the benefits of a better environment and higher
overall yields. But we actually consume water at a higher rate.
Regards, Charles M. Burt, Chairman, Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC), California
Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly)
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
22. Karen Frenken FAO, NRL, Italy
Dear all,
Indeed, as you probably may know, one of the most challenging and certainly one of the most
exhausting tasks in AQUASTAT is understanding what is meant by what expression from all the
data and information we are checking… What does a data we get or find refer to? What does it
mean? Withdrawal, abstraction, use, consumption, or? Efficiency, productivity: engineering,
irrigation, financial, economic, basin, scheme, agronomic water, or? Irrigation, equipped for
irrigation, actually irrigated, harvested irrigated, or? Direct use, indirect use of treated
wastewater, not treated wastewater, or? And so on, and so on. I can go on for all variables and
indicators we have in AQUASTAT.
While AQUASTAT is known and appreciated for its severe quality checks, I have no doubt that
there is still a lot of data that are probably wrong because we didn’t manage to get the definition
or expression that goes with them right from the information we received.
So, indeed, let’s amongst us in any case use wording that gives 0% chance of being misinterpreted.
Karen Frenken, Senior Water Resources Officer
23. Giovanni Munoz, FAO, Italy
Dear Chris,
Please find here one of the reports of the projects below, where most of the detailed information
is included. It is the report of the Water Use and Farm Management Survey of the same project.
This work was done by a regional institution (the Scientific Information Center of the Interstate
Committee for Water Coordination). I am afraid little of this can be found on the internet.
The data are very clear: the water use efficiency is very low for reasons found in the report and
the same is true for the irrigation efficiencies and you have evidence of that also in the report.
Unfortunately, the situation of irrigated agriculture in Central Asia is rather complex and that is
why we are seeking for thoughtful contributions. The analysis done as part of the Scenarios
development was developed by a multidisciplinary team and nothing included in the scenarios
was not discussed in detail with the group.
Your further thoughts are most welcome.
Thanks for your interest and best regards, Giovanni Munoz
24. Giovanni Munoz, FAO, Italy
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
Dear all,
For those interested, and further to my message below, please note that you can download the
Water Use and Farm Management Survey Reports for 1997-1999 from the following link:
Moreover, that you can visit for more reports of the WARMAP project:
Best regards,
Giovanni Munoz
25. Anura Widana , New Zealand
Several issues have been raised by the participants. All of them are valid, useful and provide “hot
spots” that need to work on in order to improve irrigated agriculture in the central Asia (CA).
However, one fundamental issue that make irrigated agriculture improves its productivity with
equality (in water allocation, input use) have not received adequate attention in the on-going
discussion. There are few other issues that are also relevant in the context of the present
discussion. The purpose of the present contribution is to highlight and bring in a brief discussion
on the importance of issues that have received only marginal attention.
The discussion is underpinned by four issues raised by the organisers. The single issue that
determines the latter three of the four questions is the active engagement of water user
association (WUA) in the management of the irrigated sector. Although some passing references
have been made to this subject the issue in its entirety has not been highlighted. The active
involvement of WUA is also critical in the context of increasing the number of small holders who
constitute the bulk of the irrigated sector in CA. As some contributions have highlighted, the data
tells us that over 80 per cent of farmers in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyz are small-holders.
As such, any improvement in the sector necessarily has to address to the millions of small farmers
who form a central part of water use. The consideration on their skills, education, knowledge,
aspirations, values, behaviour etc. are a sine quo non to improve irrigated agriculture. And, the
only effective mechanism to work with a diverse and scattered groups of small farmers as
demonstrated in other Asian countries is to form them into entities. Any program developed and
implement without their active participation is doomed to be a failure as no country in CA can
afford to employ a police officer at every farm outlet to control water and other input use as well
as to apprehend those who waste water, do not participate in O&M of the system and cause
damage to the system. The CA countries should benefit from experiences on WUA in other Asian
The role and functions of farmer’s organisations (FOs) are huge and spread over a spectrum. The
following list provides some essential roles and benefits of WUA (also called FO) as researched
and documented in Sri Lanka which is well relevant in the context of CA.
Resource allocation functions
Dispute resolving functions
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
Inputs (seeds, equipment, other materials) distribution includes disbursement of and
recovery of agricultural loans
Water management including O&M and increasing water use efficiency
Environmental protection/conservation
Education, training, extension, awareness creation and sensitization
Crops and livestock marketing
Processing includes storage
Water productivity enhancement functions include reduced crops production cost
Work with water authority to prepare / implement better allocation/distribution
Although there are some WUA that are working in several CA countries such as Afghanistan,
Tajikistan and Kyrgyz (and perhaps other CA countries), the data on the number, profile and
activities is not available. The government and donor attention to WUA is in adequate as even the
number of active WUA (and other similar entities) is unknown.
The increase in irrigated area under cultivation through the activities of FOs is well documented.
One commonly sighted experiment at Gal Oya, Sri Lanka has demonstrated that the facilitation of
FOs that have been effective in water allocation, on-farm use and saving has led to huge water
saving that was used to cultivate other sections of the irrigation scheme that has never been put
under crops ever since the scheme was originally built in early 19502. I’m aware of some work on
water use organisations promoted in Afghanistan and Tajikistan but the work is inadequate.
The processing of agricultural stuff is the next issue that needs attention in this discussion. The
perishable crops produced under irrigation such as water melon, other cucurbits, pomegranates,
grapes, etc. in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and other countries need to be processed
well and shipped to consuming areas. A large part of the output is improperly utilized or even
wasted at present. This will increase the shelf life of agricultural produce. Afghanistan produces a
large quantity of fruits and nuts that are not effectively processed and marketed. There are
number of constraints to the processing of products that require further attention.
The third issue is improper water allocation in the head-end of irrigation systems where trees
(fruits, buts and timber) are grown while depriving of the tail-end users of their share of water for
the cultivation of much needed annual crops. The examples come from irrigation systems such as
Balkh and several other river-based systems in Afghanistan. On the other hand, tail-end of the
system hardly receives water as much of it is ponded in the upper reach. It is the WUA that can
resolve problems such as this as evident in elsewhere.
The fourth issue not discussed is the need for inter-country cooperation on irrigation matters
with the sharing of a river basin. The Amu River between Afghanistan and Tajikistan is an issue at
hand. There is more work on the protection of river banks on the Tajik side that cause heavy
damage to both irrigation systems, farmlands and communities on the Afghan side. The only
effective mechanism to resolve the management is coordination between the two countries.
The final issue is mini-hydro power schemes making use of irrigation water is yet another issue
that affects the performance of irrigated agriculture. Irrigation systems such as Balkh, Khanabad
and Amu river-based irrigation systems have several dozens of hydro-power plants installed by
wealthy people. Though the hydro-power systems benefit the entire community, the ponding of
irrigation water leads to inefficient allocation and lower on-farm water use efficiency.
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia
What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
The above issues suggest that the emphasis on policy, provision of assistance to WUA and
research including data gathering are required in the context of CA countries. It is also necessary
to work on inter-country coordination on river management such as the activities being
undertaken in the Amu river basin"
26. Giovanni Munoz and Bart Hilhorst, facilitators of the discussion
First and foremost we would like to acknowledge the very interesting and elaborated
contributions, made by participants during this on-line forum. We provided some brief
introduction to what has been a very intense participatory process with experts from Central
Asia, who jointly developed a set of scenarios that we expect to finalise shortly thanks also to your
valuable contributions.
During this process, using a well-established methodology, four scenarios were developed about
the future of the water-energy-agriculture sectors in Central Asia. The comprehensive scenario
logics were accepted by all Central Asian states as well as Afghanistan. Scenarios are sets of
multiple, equally plausible stories that describe how the future might unfold. Therefore, scenarios
are not predictions. Rather, they identify - to the best of our ability - what might happen. They are
plausible evolutions from the current situation, depending on how the major driving forces
develop and interact. Participants in a scenario exercise are discouraged from expressing a
preference for a certain scenario – all are plausible and have to be considered.
We starting this forum by asking four questions derived from the insight obtained during the
process of developing the scenario logics and have received a good number of replies and
suggestions for each one of them. We will not try to summarise them in detail as they will remain
available in this forum page for you to read them. They do enrich and confirm the scenario logics
so far developed and some of them also point to areas where we need to sharpen our arguments
to better describe the content of the scenarios.
We would just like to highlight some of the main ideas discussed:
Improving agricultural productivity in rainfed agriculture is important in Central Asia and
technologies such as Conservation Agriculture and Water Harvesting need further
promotion in the region;
While participants acknowledged that there is a good deal of interventions countries in
Central Asia can undertake to mitigate the impacts of climate change, they also realized
that such threats are better addressed through regional cooperation;
Participants also highlighted the centrality of private investments to maintain existing
irrigation infrastructure in the long run, secure land tenure rights were suggested as a
pre-requisite to promote farmers’ investment in agriculture;
Recognizing that most water in Central Asia is used for agricultural purposes, participants
argued that much more needs to be done to encourage technological innovation in
Low water productivity in irrigated agriculture is a key feature in Central Asia. The
discussion suggested many solutions for improving water productivity through a mix of
improved efficiency of water application, improved agricultural practices, better crop
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What Future for Irrigated Agriculture in Central Asia
selection and fertilization, measures to strengthen the enabling environment for
agricultural activities, etc.
In closing, we would like to thank participants for their engagement and emphasize that like in
other regions of the world where water scarcity is becoming more intense, the future of irrigation
in Central Asian depends on progress in areas within and outside the water domain.
Giovanni Munoz – Land and Water Development Engineer (FAO/TCIC)
Bart Hilhorst - Expert in transboundary water resources management, Consultant
Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia