On November 23, 2019, a round table on “Towards the transition of Aral Sea region from disaster prone zone to zone of innovations and sustainable development (Agriculture sector)” was held in Nukus.

The meeting was organized by the joint project of the UN Development Programme and the Center of Hydrometeorological Service of Uzbekistan, which was funded by the Adaptation Fund under the United Nations Framework Convention on climate Change aimed at developing climate resilience of farms and dekhan farms located in the arid regions of Karakalpakstan.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), since early 20th century there has been a general trend of warming by an average of 1-2 °C in Central Asia, which will significantly affect the temperature regime, mode and intensity of precipitation, as well as the condition of natural ecosystems, human and animal health. Thus, climate change poses a serious threat to the agricultural production potential in the region.

Advanced technologies in combating climate change, drought early warning tools and advisory support to farmers create a new and reliable opportunity to implement the agenda for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the most vulnerable regions to the effects of climate change, in particular in the Aral Sea region. Currently, the joint efforts of the government, international development agencies and foreign research institutes are aimed at finding the most effective solutions that can ensuring shift from traditional approaches in agriculture and farming to an innovative models.

As was noted during the round table, the government’s initiative on transformation of the Aral Sea region into creation innovation and technology zone to achieve sustainable socio-economic development, make it more resilient to climate change and with clean and healthy environment, good health care and gender equality. Among the key issues discussed by the speakers was the impact of climate change on land and water resources. Possible approaches to mitigating negative effects, such as drought and land degradation in Karakalpakstan, were also examined. One of the most effective tools in this direction, as emphasized by experts, is the development of drought early warning system for the lower reaches of the Amu Darya. Within the framework of UNDP/AF project, the drought early warning system was adapted to the conditions of the lower reaches of the Amu Darya. This system allows forecasting drought and low water for the growing season with a lead time of 3 to 6 months. Early warnings are available on a monthly basis, with reliability of warnings from 70 to 100%.

Representatives of the project presented the results of piloting agro and water-saving practices and measures to restore natural degraded pastures. Thus, in 2018 and 2019, 10 pasture communities were created with a cooperative management principle in 5 pilot areas of the project in Karakalpakstan. Today, these communities brought together 47,830 rural residents, who are working to restore degraded pastures and create new ones. To support the initiative, 34,960 ha of territories were allocated by the local authorities of the pilot districts to pasture cooperatives for a period of 25-30 years.

The participants of the round table were also presented with the results of forest reclamation works carried out on the dried bed of the Aral Sea with a total coverage of 21,200 ha. Within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2018 between UNDP and the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Forestry, saxaul was planted on the territory of 13,600 hectares, sand-cumulative furrows were cut in an area of 7,600 hectares, and works to establish nurseries of desert and drought-resistant plants on an area of 160 hectares were carried out, which provides seedlings for planting on an area of 35,000 hectares, as well as the results of large-scale forest reclamation works carried out within the implementation of the Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Republic of Uzbekistan for the period 2019-2028.

Experts from FAO, ICARDA, ICBA and other international organizations, academic institutions shared information on innovative approaches to climate-resistant agriculture in the Aral Sea region.

At the end of the meeting, the UNDP initiative to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into national development programmes for the Aral Sea region based on a systematic approach was voiced. Participants discussed the feasibility of applying this approach at the community level based on experience of the programmes being implemented in the region.

UNDP assistance to Uzbekistan is aimed at achieving common interconnected goals: providing support to the Government in accelerating reforms in the field of sustainable economic development, effective public administration, adaptation to climate change and environmental protection.