Abnormal dryness conditions and lower amount of irrigation water impact on food security in the Kyrgyz Republic

Situation Report
Originally published


Overview of the situation and impact on agriculture: The Kyrgyz Republic is highly vulnerable to shocks associated with climate change, which affect the agricultural sector and ultimately the livelihoods of those who depend on it. Kyrgyzstan is the third most vulnerable to climate change impacts in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, primarily due to the sensitivity of its agricultural systems to climatic change. Rainfall and temperature are both positively correlated with crop yields, suggesting that increases in both rainfall and temperatures are linked to higher crop production. There is a strong positive correlation between yields and April-June rainfall, high- lighting that the timing of rainfall is critical to ensuring adequate food production. Vegetables, wheat, and potato are the most sensitive products to changes in climatic patterns, specifically to decreases in rainfall.

Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia whose water resources are almost completely formed on its own territory, and this is its hydrological feature and advantages. Given that large amounts of water for domestic and agricultural use originate from glaciers and snowmelt, snowfall is also an important climatic parameter in the context of the Kyrgyz Republic. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the water resulting from glacier melt is utilized for agriculture, but the irrigation system is inefficient because its infrastructure is relatively obsolete, and repairs would be needed to decrease water losses in irrigation which amount up to 28 percent yearly.

According to Kyrgyz Hydromet’s data, the past ten years have been marked by an acceleration in changing rainfall patterns, heavy snowfall events, and landslides. Historically, water scarcity has been observed every 5-6 years depending on climate conditions.

Current situation

In May 2021, availability of water has become an issue for Chuy province as residents reported on water shortages for irrigation. The WFP’s Seasonal Monitor also revealed a lower level of precipitation in 2021 in all provinces of the country, compared to 2019 and 2020, in April (- 16.48mm and -6.73mm), May (-4.23mm and -5.62mm) and June (- 8.23mm and -0.19mm), respectively. An abnormal dryness was reported for the northern parts of Chuy and Talas provinces. As of May 2021, the level of water in the 11 large reservoirs for irrigation purposes was 1.364 billion m3, 1.5 percent less compared to the previous year.

According to the global observations for June 2021, Kyrgyzstan had moderately cooler temperatures than normal in the north and moderately warmer in the south. Due to lower temperatures, glaciers are melting at a rate of 132.6 m3/sec, 65 m3/sec or 23 percent slower compared to 2020. Along with the slower melting of glaciers, the needs for water are increasing in line with the increasing population (+250,000 compared to 2019) and due to the sharp increase of the frequency of crop watering due an increase in vegetable production of 4.3 percent and sugar beet of 24.4 percent compared to last year.

The above-mentioned factors are contributing to the decreasing volume of water in the rivers that has decreased by 2-2.5 times compared to last year. This may create some shortages for irrigation water, which is needed during the growing season, which for spring wheat is June, July and August.