Lebap region of Turkmenistan is the longest in the country. The largest river in Central Asia, the Amu Darya, flows through its territory from south to north at a distance of 830 kilometers. Since ancient times, oases have been located along the shores of this main waterway of the region, where various crops have been successfully cultivated. However, in the face of climate change, the abundance of water resources is not a sufficient condition for the prosperity and improvement of the livelihoods of local communities.
Temperature rise is a direct cause of environmental degradation, extreme weather conditions, and the loss of biological or economic land productivity reduce the welfare of the local population. In addition, the changing landscape of the economy contributes to the fact that a significant part of the population is forced to look for more effective solutions for the development of agriculture and alternative sources of income.
Often, the main burden of earning and finding alternative sources of income for the family falls on women - heads of households, who are the most vulnerable group of the rural population to the effects of climate change. A joint project of UNDP and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment Protection of Turkmenistan, funded by the Global Environment Facility, provides advisory support to rural women in the pilot regions of the project to maintain financial stability and empower women by enhancing their potential, introducing successful practices and demonstrating ways to generate alternative sources of income.
For several women in the Daikhan association “Vatan” and “Parakhat” of the Lebap province, the production of vermicompost (biohumus) has become the main activity that ensures the family's income and its well-being.
Gulbakhar was born and raised in the village of Zergomen of the Lebap province. She has two daughters and one son. All his life, Gulbakhar worked on the collective farm in various positions related to agriculture. However, after retiring, Gulbahar had to look for a new occupation in order to provide her household with income. Gulbahar began to grow flowers, lemons, potatoes and tomatoes in her garden.
“Two years ago, I have built a small greenhouse measuring 8x6 meters. I have harvested enough for my family and some for sale. I planted bell peppers and tomatoes, and the neighbors came to me to try them, because they said that they had the best taste, because I don’t use mineral fertilizers,” says Gulbahar. “However, the soil became less and less fertile, and I have to use decayed manure, which attracts insects and causes a lot of weeds to appear. To deal with them, I have to use various chemicals. It seemed to me that the taste of vegetables changed from this, and therefore I was looking for some means to make my production efficient and environmentally friendly.”
In 2019, Gulbahar undertook a series of UNDP trainings on finding alternative sources of income and supporting climate-resilient economic activity of local communities. She was included in the initiative group of women receiving regular free agro-consultations on the organization of production of vermicompost on the basis of the agro-information centers of the project. As an activist, Gulbahar received a bag of California worms from the project and today she has established her own production in her home garden. Gulbahar is the elder of the Vatan farmers’ association and, by her example, she shows young girls and all residents what green production is, what advantages it has and how to realize its potential in finding sources of income.