For three days, Tashkent is hosting an international conference to promote conservation agriculture in this corner of the world, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan.
Around 800 participants are attending the conference, including scientists, agriculture and extension service specialists, university professors, students, farmers, and policy makers from Australia, Brazil, Europe, the Near East, and Central and South Asia.
Countries of Central Asia have great potential in implementing conservation agriculture, considering that it is practiced on 12 percent of global cropland, much higher than the percentage here.
Conservation agriculture as a production and land management strategy could help these countries achieve sustainable agriculture. Its core principles include the minimization of mechanical soil disturbance, maintenance of permanent biomass cover, and crop diversification.
By shifting to this paradigm, farmers could sustainably and efficiently raise productivity while minimizing soil erosion, recovering degraded land, and reducing the usage of costly machinery and fertilizers.
“Everything dates back to 2012, when FAO with its partners conducted a study on the status of conservation agriculture in Central Asia,” said Hafiz Muminjanov, FAO agricultural officer. “Based on that, a strategy for its promotion was developed for the period of 2013–2030, and several country-level projects were launched. And here we are now to keep the process on the move.”
The conference will review the progress of conservation agriculture in the region and identify the potential for further adoption of these practices.
Viorel Gutu, the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Central Asia and FAO Representative in Turkey, emphasized the importance of collaborative initiatives in his remarks at the conference’s opening.
“Systematic efforts for the promotion of conservation agriculture are less frequent in our region than we would like,” Gutu said. “In order to develop agriculture, we need innovative thinking and action, and we have to do everything possible to involve farmers in adopting this thinking. This conference is a significant step in this direction.”
The conference includes over 30 technical presentations on topics such as rehabilitating degraded soils, water management, agricultural machinery, socio-economic and policy aspects, and climate change mitigation – all in relation to conservation agriculture. Case studies from ten countries, including Uzbekistan’s national strategy on the promotion of conservation agriculture, aim to show conservation agriculture in action.
“It requires a change in our mindsets, to produce more with less,” Muminjanov added.
On Friday, conference participants will visit a farm near Tashkent to learn about crop management practices and engage in training on water infiltration, soil management, and the use of various drills for no-till planting.