Karyahan apa has worked in sericulture for over 40 years. She has graduated from a local vocational college in Lebap region of Turkmenistan and started growing silkworm larvae. “I loved my job. I was young and had a profession. I was earning and living off my own income,” shares Karyahan apa.
Her husband Allaguly aga also a graduate of the local vocational school worked as art designer. Together they have seven kids who have joined sericulture and art industries. For couple of years, Karyahan apa also worked as a deputy chairwoman of the Deynau farm association in Lebap region. At the peak of her career, Karyahan was invited to join big production companies abroad, but she refused and stayed in Lebap. After both spouses retired, they were looking for an occupation that would allow them to combine their passion for the nature and the need to continue earning for their family.
“I wanted to do something and to do it well. Best of all, I could grow mulberry and fruit trees. So, I decided to rent a land and plant fruit trees,” remembers Karyahan apa.
When Karyahan apa started renting a land, local administration issued a land lease agreement only for 1 year. Since 2015, Karyahan apa had to extend her rent annually which caused some distress and discouragement as growing trees requires more than a year and demands regular land investments. This is when Karyahan apa addressed for help to UNDP project “Supporting climate resilient livelihoods in agricultural communities in drought-prone areas of Turkmenistan” funded by GEF.
UNDP/GEF project provided legal support to Karyahan apa extending her lease agreement to 10 years, according to the Land Code of Turkmenistan. She can now enjoy growing fruit trees and expect good harvest to sell in the local market which will ensure sustainable income for her family. The project has also supported Karyahan apa to get license for lease of the land for construction of the vegetable storage base, advised on proper irrigation technics for the fruit trees, brought new technologies for growing food for fish and forecasting weather conditions to ensure proper actions when needed.
“We have a plan of opening a base for storing vegetables (60 м2 ) and waiting for the decision of the project commission on grant applications. We are willing to cost-share 40% of the investment and are willing to work hard on this project. If we have the vegetable base, we will rent it out to the local farmers and teach them how to store vegetables and fruits properly so that they stay fresh until the winter seasons when we are going to sell them. We will be able to receive better price in the winter and help our livelihood,” explains Karyahan apa.
Deynau district of Lebap province is a traditional farming region of Turkmenistan. Local farmers grow mostly cotton and wheat and sell it to the state. But when climate change effects started to manifest, farming became difficult because of water scarcity and soil degradation, changes in average temperatures, rainfall, and climate extremes (e.g., heat waves). As a result, crop growth rate slowed down, soil salinity and underground water levels increased. Thus, farmers need to use more advanced technologies, rely on weather forecasts to be able to forecast risks and find solutions to them.
UNDP/GEF started working with the local farmers in 2017. After careful assessment of the needs of the local population, the project focused on providing consultation services to ensure adaptation to the climate change and finding alternative financing sources for the family livelihoods. People like Karyahan apa are the champions in piloting new methods of farming and offering solutions to the local population.
Today, Karyahan apa rents 0.4 hectare to plant fruit trees and with support of the project she is expanding her economic activities to farming fish, ensuring that the trees are planted properly to give good harvest, consulting 10 young women on sewing and teaching them to manage their family budgets.
The case of Karyahan apa demonstrates why UNDP works in the region. It enables us to showcase that with just a small plot of land it is possible to receive income and diversify economic activities through sustainable planning and risks forecasting. It is also vital that Karyahan apa is committed to achieving positive change and ensuring prosperity of her small business. Community leaders like Keryhan apa are the best allies in our efforts to shift the mindsets and prepare local communities to better respond to the existing challenges and build better futures.