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The Modern Landmark to Fight Climate Change Effects in Turkmenistan


Anyone visiting Turkmenistan remembers it for its culture, brightness of colors, welcoming people and the heat. Steadily increasing of air temperature and reduced rainfall are caused by climate change. However, you won’t feel it unless you are engaged into the agriculture.

Agriculture is the main consumer of water within Turkmenistan and it is a critical sector of the economy accounting for almost one-fifth of GDP and some 50% of the population employed in it.[i] Every year, the Government of Turkmenistan invests millions of dollars and puts enormous efforts to ensure that the agriculture strives and that the national security is not jeopardized by the lack of food stock for local production.

Most recently, the Government has launched a campaign to substitute import by local products and increase the export volumes. This means that there will be more reliance on farming and cattle breeding to meet the demand of local consumption and production for export. Hence, more advanced methods of farming and cattle breeding are required to cope with the increasing effects of climate change that lead to intensity of droughts, decreasing water sources and land degradation as a result.

Since 1995, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supports the work of the Government in the sphere of flighting climate change effects in the areas of water and land management.

“We have started our work in Turkmenistan with social projects supporting development of small and medium enterprises, promoting social reform for well-being of the vulnerable population and improving the financial accounting system. However, today, Turkmenistan is an upper-middle income country that no longer needs fighting with poverty and ensuring universal literacy rate. The Government aims at technological advancement, progressive policy reform and introduction of innovations in all spheres,” stated Vitalie Vremis, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Turkmenistan.

Being a strategic and reliable partner of the Government of Turkmenistan, UNDP has supported the government's efforts in introduction of the new policies on climate change. Thus, in 2012, the Government of Turkmenistan has adopted its first National Strategy on Climate Change. The National Strategy outlines the goals and objectives and sets the direction of work in the area of climate change.

The flagman of UNDP’s work on implementation of the National Strategy is “Addressing Climate Change Risks to Farming Systems in Turkmenistan at National and Community Level” project financed by the Adaptation Fund and implemented in partnership with the State Committee of Turkmenistan on environment protection and land resources.

Among others, the joint project has succeeded in providing expert recommendations for reforming the national legal basis to manage water and land resources. Project has piloted the formation of water users’ groups (WUGs) on the basis of brigades of the existing Farmers’ unions with defined goals and organizational structure, and increased responsibilities and rights, thus, leading away from the traditional centralized system of water and land management by the farmers’ unions. The result is already on surface. Within one year of its existence , it has been observed that the presence of WUGs have improved community-based water management principles at the local level and local communities in the pilot areas of Nohur, Karakum and Sakarchaga are enjoying increased yield from their fields, face less disputes over water distribution, and introduce new activities which improve the living conditions for the whole village. I

“We used to have a lot of disputes over water resources,” says Guljemal, a local farmer from Sakarchaga. “We fought for water and sometimes the whole area where our farmland is located would go dry because we couldn’t agree how much water each farmer shall take. We did not realize that working together and negotiating would benefit us all much more.”

After the local communities of three pilot regions were introduced to the concept of WUGs and received multiple trainings from the project staff and invited experts, some of the most active 8 out of 12 established groups embarked on improving of the living conditions of their communities. Thus, in 2016, UNDP opened a grant opportunity for WUGs to support investments in improved efficiency and quantity of agricultural water supply for local communities and received several project proposals, out of which 4 were granted funding for implementation of the project ideas. All grant funding was realized by mid-2017 with significant contribution from the local communities.

In Nohur, WUG “Cheshme” has implemented the project on construction of water pipeline with length of 5,250 meters to deliver water from the reservoir in the mountains to Konegummez village for efficient water supply for cattle and household needs of about 800 villagers. The cost of the project is USD 19 500 including USD 4 500 contributed by the local community in addition to all labor and physical work provided by WUG members.

In Karakum, WUG “Charwa” in Bori and WUG “Tebigat” in Bokurdak have constructed kak (water pond in the desert) and sardop for prime-essential needs of the villages in response to the risk of water shortages for livestock and household needs. The innovation has been introduced in these projects by lining the bottom of the kak with special geomembrane to avoid water seepage and covering the top with special cover to avoid evaporation. The total cost of two projects is USD 26 630 where local community covered 10% of the cost.

In Sakarchage, WUGs “№1”, “№10”, “№12”, “№13”, “№15” formed on the basis of “Zahmet farmers’ union existing brigades developed a joint proposal and received grant to construct 2,450 meter-long of water pipe to deliver water to residents of the "Zahmet" Farmers Union for household needs and the purchase of diesel water pumps to supply water from the canal for irrigation to the remote agricultural fields. In addition, the proposal includes establishment of information resource center for training and other needs of 5 WUGs. The project benefits around 7 500 residents of the area. The cost of the project is USD 58 785, including around USD 8 000 contribution from the local community.

Implementation of the projects for grant money proves that the independent water users’ groups manage water supply and land use more efficiently. It has also strengthened the capacity of WUGs for independent decision-making in the management of community level issues. The UNDP/AF project has helped to create the sense of ownership of the local communities over the infrastructure created during the project and ensure its maintenance for future benefit to the local population.

“We would like to see the results of the project growing. Our community has grown from being just farmers to a water users’ group. We enjoy the fact that we can solve our problems and we now dream of creating new projects to benefit our men and women,” says Charyguly, farmer and head of the WUG in “Zahmet” farmers’ union of Sakarchaga.





[i] Marshall Cavendish, World and Its Peoples, Volume 1, Turkmenistan, New York 2006, p. 691



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