From 2018 pasture cooperatives in Karakalpakstan have helped mitigate climate change and limit the impacts of the Aral Sea’s disappearance. In the past three months they’ve also limited the impact of COVID-19.
“It’s very pleasing to see that the push to develop our district’s livestock sector has become an ever-more ambitious project,” shared Nafisa Bayniyazova, chair of the ‘Ajiniyaz Jaylawlari’ pasture cooperative in the Muynak district. “I feel that my work is useful to people and this gives me both the strength and the motivation to generate new ideas.”
From 1995 to 2014 as processes of pasture desertification and degradation worsened in Karakalpakstan, caused by the Aral Sea’s disappearance, the considerable expansion of cattle farming has resulted in a 23% decrease in agricultural productivity.
Not only have the advanced technologies introduced through the cooperatives helped enhance agricultural output, but they have also limited the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
Livelihoods built from the ground
The ‘Ajiniyaz Jaylawlari’ pasture cooperative is a part of the ‘Hakim Ata’ Rural Citizens’ Assembly of Muynak District. Along with nine other cooperatives across Karakalpakstan, it was formed in 2018 with support from UNDP and the Adaptation Fund.
Chaired by Nafisa Bayniyazova, the cooperative possesses more than 582 hectares of pasture area, with 595 families being supported through effective animal husbandry and agricultural management. In total 34,964 hectares of land in Karakalpakstan has been allocated to 10 pasture cooperatives, where 44,779 cattle, 61,610 sheep and goats, 3,620 horses and 164 camels are owned by 8,198 families.
These cooperatives are an unprecedented initiative carried out in northern Uzbekistan to fight draughts and desertification and to restore degraded and unproductive land. Through the cooperatives, livestock breeders have had access to high-quality feeders, while with UNDP assistance they’ve been supplied with tractors, plows, disc harrows, mowers, balers, water-saving irrigation technologies, and other equipment for feed production.
From the early days of the quarantine to now, members of Nafisa’s cooperative sowed 15 hectares of alfalfa, 12 hectares of vegetables, and 5 hectares of cereals through zero-tillage technology, which helped protect the district’s food security.
Since 2019, green crop harvesting technology has been introduced through a hydroponic plant with a 500 kg daily capacity. Hydroponics presents a means of plot cultivation without needing soil, with necessary nutrients being provided through a fluid solution. This approach regulates the conditions for plant cultivation, creating a nutrition regime for root systems, while ensuring maximum, better quality yields over a shorter time.
Hydroponics have made it possible to feed up to 167 heads of cattle a day, removing grazing pressure from an area of 300 hectares. It is noteworthy that the quantity of feed produced this way is equivalent to what can be cultivated on 75 hectares of traditionally irrigated land.
Installing hydroponics has the had an important additional benefit of keeping citizens healthy during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Protecting health and strengthening incomes during lockdown
“Hydroponic installations need to be carefully maintained, with the surfaces kept disinfected so that the feed is safe and healthy for animals. For this purpose, we have electrolysis units, through which we can produce the disinfectant sodium hypochlorite,” said Bektileu Abylov, head of the ‘Bozatau Jaylawi’ pasture cooperative of the Bozatau district.Sodium hypochlorite is a bactericidal and sterilizing agent widely used in medicine, in the food industry, and in agriculture.
” During the COVID-19 quarantine we joined district-level specialists in producing enough sodium hypochlorite to meet the local population’s needs.”
Since March 25 Nafisa and Bektileu have supplied between 75 to 80 liters of disinfectant each day to nearby kindergartens, schools, health facilities, shops, and other public spaces, as well as to residential complexes and private households.
“We have already covered 265 households, organizations and businesses of the ‘Hakim Ata’ and ‘Bozatau’ Rural Citizens’ Assemblies of the Muynak District, offering 2,100 liters of disinfectant in total,” Nafisa Bayniyazova said.“We’ve all been working hard, and we hope that soon we will be able to return to our old way of life.”
With UNDP’s support, 10 additional sets of electrolysis devices will soon be supplied to Karakalpakstan’s districts.
As well as keeping people healthy, the cooperatives have also helped citizens remain employed and maintain their incomes through the quarantine. 88 people have been employed in full-time jobs by pasture cooperatives in Karakalpakstan during the quarantine period, while work to plant a 10-hectare nursery of sand crops to secure drift sands on the dry seabed of the Aral Sea has also created employment.
UNDP in Uzbekistan has worked extensively with national partners and international donors to ensure the climate sustainability of farms and dehkan farms, and to create favorable conditions for lives of residents in Karakalpakstan’s most arid regions.