In Turkmenistan, more than 90% of water resources are used in irrigated agriculture, which is the main supplier of agricultural products, thereby ensuring food security of the country and employment for the majority of the population in rural areas.

All irrigated zones of Turkmenistan are exposed to the negative effects of climate change. The problems faced by the local population include intermittent and erratic rainy seasons, longer periods of drought, high air temperatures that affect agricultural activities, affect sowing, irrigation, soil salinization intensity, duration of vegetation, water availability, and ultimately, crop yields. Climate change also creates conditions for the emergence of new types of pests.

However, the main problem of agriculture as a result of climate change is the growing shortage of water resources. The demand for agricultural products grows with the growth of the country's population. As a result, the load on sown fields increases. Due to the persistent practice of inefficient tillage and irrigation, most farmers use water resources excessively, thus trying to solve the issue of water supply to crops. As a result, the country's irrigated land is under constant threat of secondary salinization.

Swampy field by the house in Dashoguz region is the result of irrational water use and inefficient irrigation and drainage technique / UNDP Turkmenistan

To solve the problems of irrigated agriculture due to the effects of climate change, it is necessary to carry out measures and introduce technologies to save water resources by reducing the irrational use of available water resources.

Based on the experience of previous UNDP projects, the ongoing joint projects of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, as well as the Water Management Committee of Turkmenistan, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), conducted a situation analysis and found that the currently used methods for leveling of the field surfaces are one of the main factors in reducing the effectiveness of irrigation.

“In order to improve the efficiency of irrigated agriculture, a modern and effective method of laser land leveling is quite successfully used in world practice,” says Akmurad Yazhanov, specialist of the joint UNDP / GEF project and the Committee for Water Management. “This method allows to create the necessary alignment and the correct slope on the irrigated field, which ensures uniform distribution of irrigation water throughout the field.”

To demonstrate and implement this technology in Turkmenistan in the framework of two UNDP / GEF projects (“Supporting climate resilient livelihoods in agricultural communities in drought-prone areas of Turkmenistan” and “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for Sustainable Water Management in Turkmenistan”) purchased three sets of laser planners for pilot sites located in the Akhal, Dashoguz and Lebap regions in 2017.

“In all pilot regions of our projects, irrigated agriculture accounts to a vital share of the economy. At the same time, most of the population of these regions lives in rural areas. That is why our projects focused on the Dashoguz and Lebap regions, which are mainly agricultural and largely depend on the condition of irrigated lands,” explained Natia Natsvlishvili, UNDP Resident Representative a.i..

Laser land leveling is one of the key innovations, which is designed to prepare the basis for the further transition to resource-saving technologies. The main goal of the land leveling in agriculture is to eliminate irregularities in the surface of the field, which impede the implementation of high-quality irrigation and mechanized agrotechnical measures. The even surface of the field creates conditions for seeding the seeds to the required depth, for uniform distribution of irrigation water and moistening throughout the field, which in turn ensures uniform seedling and plant development, and, accordingly, obtaining a high yield and increasing the efficiency of water resources use.

For information disseminate purposes on the modern land leveling technologies in Turkmenistan, UNDP / GEF project specialists regularly conduct practical trainings and seminars for specialists from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the State Committee for Water Management, local farmers, representatives of the Turkmen Agricultural Institute, and the Institute of Turkmensuvylymtaslama at pilot agricultural fields located in Akhal, Dashoguz and Lebap regions to familiarize themselves with opportunities of using laser leveling method of irrigated land and the proper operation of the laser equipment. During the seminars, participants in practice are testing laser technology and receive advise from experts.

Laser land leveling ensures water saving by 20-30% and improves yield by 20-25%

“Over the past 2 years, on farms in which, with the assistance of UNDP / GEF projects, laser land leveling was used for the first time, the quality of irrigation was significantly improved, the time of irrigation was reduced, manual labor use during irrigation was reduced, water saving was 20-30%, yield increased by 20-25%,” says the specialist of the joint project of UNDP / GEF and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Ovezdurdy Dzhumadurdyev. “Residents especially observed the effect of laser leveling during washing and irrigation operations, when the water was evenly distributed throughout the field and not a single hill was visible where additional water would have to be delivered.”

At the research site of 145 hectares of the Water Research Institute “Turkmensuwylymtaslama”, field trials of the laser leveling and practical training for specialists from interested departments and farms were also conducted to demonstrate the capabilities of this equipment. Taking into account all the benefits of leveling the surface of the fields with the help of a laser planner, UNDP / GEF experts at various bilateral meetings and seminars with specialists from agricultural and water management structures recommended that this equipment be widely introduced into production.

In August 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Turkmenistan began the purchase of laser planners. The first batch of 40 pieces of equipment arrived in Turkmenistan in summer of 2019. At the moment, field trainings are being held for tractor drivers in order to properly operate the equipment and avoid equipment breakdowns from improper operation and excessive fuel consumption.

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