Agricultural Innovations

Agriculture is an important sector for Afghanistan and Central Asian countries’ economies. Almost 80% of population in Afghanistan depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, and agriculture contributes to almost half of the GDP[1]. In other Central Asian countries, agriculture accounts for 20-30% of employment, and 20-35% contribution to GDP[2]. Agriculture is also a major water user in all the countries, highest being Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Early land reforms in Kyrgyzstan have led to creation of many small scale farms which are mainly for subsistence and yet to prove their economic viability. Uzbekistan after implementation of land reforms in the early 2000 went back towards an ‘optimisation’ strategy and reduced significantly the amount of farmers by increasing the land allocations to a few. Uzbekistan continues with state quota for cotton and wheat. Tajikistan only recently started with land reforms and the process is still ongoing, until recently there was still the state focus on cotton production.

To a large extent agriculture in Central Asia depends on lift irrigation, hence potentially the real costs for agricultural production are high, including energy costs for lifting. 

Given the diversity of land reforms (leading to small or large scale farms), state involvement and difference of water supply infrastructure (either lift or gravity flow) a nuanced approach has to be taken. Arguably, high lift irrigation needs water saving technologies first and might also be the most suitable for water saving technologies (higher level of control). Given the large scale irrigation infrastructure built for mono cropping diversification of crops of small independent farmers would require major investment in water control infrastructure.

To reduce water use and to have sustainable agricultural development, new low-water-intensive, drought-tolerant, high yielding varieties of both food and other crops need to be investigated. In addition, water saving technologies such as drip irrigation, rain water harvesting, innovative and safe methods on re-use of drainage water must be researched. The role of farmers is crucial in this, thus, creation of incentives that encourage farmers to increase agricultural productivity and to save water must be encouraged.

Also, taking into consideration the impacts of climate change, strategies to reduce high dependence on agriculture need to be developed.


Wednesday, 29 June 2011 to Thursday, 30 June 2011
EWI Brussels Office