At present time arable lands are used mainly for dry-land crops of grains (wheat), oil-yielding crops (safflower) cultures. Grain crops` harvest on these territories primarily depends on humidity level in a certain year but it seldom reaches 0.8-1 t/ha and such a harvest takes place once in 3-5 years. In other years harvests cover for expenses of seed grain, only or there is not any harvest at all.
Livestock breeding sometimes remains the main source of income for increasing local population. It is a rare survival strategy in a country with low trust in institutions, increasing inflation, poor governance and uncertain future perspectives for a young generation. Overgrazing and missing sustainable pasture management practices are the regular situation, not the exception. Vegetation cover is gone, including below ground phytomass, at large mountain foothills and initiates serious soil erosion processes. Soils suffer from induration, surface layer and soil structure destruction, wind erosion, surface flow increase and interflow decrease. Mudslide, reduction of river discharge, soil fertility loss are the serious consequence.
More and more evident climate change indicators in Uzbekistan can only aggravate the situation: as climatologists forecast, air temperature at the country`s territory is going to increase, whereas amount of precipitations changes insignificantly, so humidity decreases. Consequently the probability of acceptable grain crop harvest on dry-farming land and feeding phytomass on pastures is decreasing and will decrease even more in the future as a result of territory`s increasing aridization. In other words: The risk to maintain current livestock numbers and gain agriculture yields on dry lands will increase with the time. Therefore there is actually no other option to consider sustainable land and forest management approaches, the sooner the wiser.
However there are not many alternatives for such severe conditions of growing areas and they should correspond to at least, two criteria. First, alternatives need to be adapted to the natural conditions of the specific areas. Second, they must deploy enough economic benefit for local population not less than existing land use.
Pistachio forest in Ferghana valley.
However all the necessary conditions for pistachio production exists in Uzbekistan, and it may be done on dry-farming lands without extra watering under natural conditions:
- the foothills of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan are natural habitats for pistachio. Center of pistachio variety diversity is situated here. It allows local scientists to select different varieties;
- pistachio cultivating has a promising commercial potential;
- about 7.8 million hectares are in general suitable and out of them about 3 million hectares of optimal suitability in terms of the altitudinal limits in Uzbekistan as drafted in map 1. According to State Committee on Land Resources a minimum of 700,000 hectares of dry-farming land exists in Uzbekistan that are suitable for pistachio growing because of its optimal land use rights according to the land owing administration;
- all the techniques and know-how for the establishment of afforestation sites, their inoculation and maintenance are available. Moreover techniques for the optimization of already existing pistachio sites are available;
- there is a collection of pistachio`s varieties (about 20) with big and open nuts on the pilot site Gallyaaral of Djizak forestry enterprise (Djizak province). GEF Small Grants Program in Uzbekistan (SGP), established a mother plantation there that holds 12 varieties that are the source for tree stocks inoculation to for higher ecologic variability and resistance to diseases and other risks;
- economic analysis shown, as will be outlined below that pistachio cultivation is more profitable than dryland-farming or livestock breeding;
- the establishment of pistachio growing sites contributes to a much better land management and re-establishment of its natural ecosystem services. Thus it is an efficient tool for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and to combat desertification.