Over 90% of Tajikistan’s territory is mountainous, making it prone to a wide range of natural disasters such as floods, landslides, avalanches and earthquakes. Indeed, the country has been assessed as the most vulnerable in the region of Europe and Central Asia in terms of future climate change risks.
Climate variability and climate change will impact key economic sectors in Tajikistan, including agriculture, energy, and water – and will put at risk the livelihoods of rural people who are already impacted by high levels of poverty. Tajikistan’s agriculture sector, in particular, will likely be affected by low levels of rainfall, drying-up of water resources, lower snow accumulation in mountain glaciers, and more frequent extreme weather events.
For communities across the country, it is important therefore to have a strong understanding of how climate change may affect their land, water supply, livestock and crops. This knowledge can guide people to adopt sustainable land and natural resource management practices, and to pass them on to future generations, so that communities will have greater food security today and in the future.
To help Tajikistan achieve this goal, the World Bank launched in 2013 the Environmental Land Management and Rural Livelihoods Project, which supports more sustainable management of natural resources and an increase in the resilience of communities in rural areas to climate change impacts.
Firuz Nurkhonov lives in Gulshan village, in the remote Farkhor district on the border with Afghanistan. Firuz established a “common interest group” and received financial support from the project to purchase a more productive breed of cattle.
“This new breed gives 20 liters of milk a day; our local breed of cows gave only two liters of milk per day,” says Firuz. “We never expected to see such a difference!”
By selling dairy products to local stores, Firuz and other members of the group can now reap the economic benefits of ranching this type of cattle. “In two years, we doubled the number of cattle purchased with project funds, and soon all 25 group members will own such cows.”
In addition to bringing extra income to impoverished communities, the more productive cattle breed also puts less pressure on pastures, as herd size and pasture degradation are reduced.
Habibullo Mahmadulloev is also a resident of Gulshan village. Habibullo recently expanded his apiary thanks to financing from the project, and has passed on his knowledge of beekeeping to 24 residents in the village, who are also members of the local common interest group.
“It is amazing to see how the Carpathian breed of bees, which we purchased thanks to the project, are better adapted to the cold winter season,” says Habibullo. “Previously, the bees were inactive and slept through the winter: it was not good for our business.”
Through locally established common interest groups, the project has supported 2,350 small-scale investments in 6 project districts around Tajikistan. The investments have enabled communities to introduce and adapt more effective ways of managing natural resources, while helping people diversity their income-generating opportunities, and pass their knowledge on to others.
The project also partnered with 17 local civil society organizations (CSOs) to support community engagement activities, including building and dissemination of knowledge, training and mentorship.
“These initiatives are about behavior change,” says Yuriy Skochilov, Head of The Youth Ecological Center, a local CSO that works with beneficiaries of the project. “Throughout our interaction, we began to see a more environmentally-responsible mindset and behavior among land users, pasture users, and farmers in general.”
Another important aspect of natural resource management addressed by the project is soil degradation, which is caused by erosion and inefficient irrigation. It is estimated that land degradation from erosion caused by overgrazing impacts approximately 3 million hectares, or 85%, of the total pasture land.
Out of 720,000 hectares of arable irrigated land in Tajikistan, only 515,000 hectares is currently in use – due to the deterioration of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, water logging and salinization. To help address these challenges, the project has partnered with local Water Users’ Associations and Pasture User Unions.
The Оbi Shirin Water User’s Association, based in Kulyab town, supports 21 nearby villages with irrigation water services. Thanks to the project, Obi Shirin has improved irrigation and prevented water loss on 1,941 hectares of land through cleaning of drainage canals, installation of water meters and water pipes, and renovation of water gates.
Faizali Miraliev, manager of Obi Shirin, points out that the improvements are encouraging users to pay their fees in time, because they are seeing significant improvement in irrigation water services. “Moreover, improved irrigation is helping farmers increase their crops, so their incomes are improving too,” says Faizali.
“Assessments of the project, including well-being analysis, indicate that the motivation to sustain results is quite significant, given the benefits to the community from job creation, social cohesion, food security and greater awareness of the value of natural resources,” says Drita Dade, the project team leader.
To date, more than 53,000 households in 12 districts of Tajikistan have adopted new sustainable land management practices, with 44,235 hectares of land being covered by effective, more climate resilient technologies and practices. Overall, more than 320,000 people have benefited from the project – almost half of whom are women.