In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (Central Asian or CA countries) the genetic diversity of fruit species is threatened due to overgrazing, deforestation, logging and industrialization in the wild, and use of uniform high-yield varieties, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and increased mechanization in home gardens and on small farms. The result is loss of traditional diversity-based farming systems, arable lands degradation, pollution, genetic erosion, and loss of biodiversity.
Legal and policy frameworks of the CA countries that address biodiversity conservation do not adequately support conservation of fruit species. Farmer and research sector knowledge about wild and cultivated fruit genetic resources is dispersed and fragmented, out of date, and lacks the benefits of modern technologies. Linkages between and among stakeholder groups are weak.
The ”In Situ /On Farm Conservation and Use of Agrobiodiversity in Central Asia” project is one of UNEP – Global Environment Forum (GEF)’s Agrobiodiversity projects.
The project aims to address a number of Environment Degradation and Development Constraints in Central Asian countries. These include the loss of traditional diversity-based farming systems and loss of biodiversity; arable lands degradation and soil erosion; pollution; genetic erosion and deforestation.
UNEP’s work is aimed at strengthening capacity in the countries of the region and improving their policy and regulations to tackle these issues. This also included providing training to farmers and scientists and establishing training centres, legal advice to farmers to ensure land tenure rights and policy expertise to help improve the policy and regulations on agrobiodiversity in the countries of the region.
To address the situation, the project focused directly on farmers and forest dwellers, the traditional custodians of fruit tree diversity. The project targeted 12 fruit and nut crops and their wild relatives.
5 Regional Training Centers and 8 National Training Centers have been established
Over 500 farmers gained knowledge and skills on the diversity of local fruit crops, grafting techniques, agronomy practices, processing and adding value to fruit products
Over 300 scientists were trained on socio-economic aspects, participatory approach, molecular markers, international descriptors, communication with farmers
58 nurseries (with more than 1,500,000 saplings of local varieties or fruit trees produced annually in Kyrgyzstan) have been set up: Kazakhstan – 14; Kyrgyzstan -7; Tajikistan – 11; Turkmenistan – 10; Uzbekistan – 16.
72 demonstration plots in farmers’ orchards (430 local varieties) have been established: Kazakhstan – 14; Kyrgyzstan – 7; Tajikistan –18; Turkmenistan –11; Uzbekistan –22.
In Kyrgyzstan the wellbeing of farmers growing traditional fruit tree varieties has improved. Many farmers have gone from clay houses to brick ones.
Improved Policy and Regulations include:
- Proposals on establishment of new and extension of existing PA to cover wild relatives of fruit and nut-bearing crops in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
- Wild fruit and nut-bearing species are now included in the List of Valuable Wood Species of national Forest Codes in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
- The legislation on PGRC Conservation and sustainable use is revised to include wild relatives of fruit crops in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan
- Government Programmes on Horticulture and Viticulture Development in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan prioritize fruit tree diversity
- Government subsidies for establishment of orchards and fruit tree nurseries development in Kazakhstan (Local varieties of apple) installed
- Revised legislation to make provisions for long-term land lease for cultivation of local varieties of fruit crops
- Land tax exemptions and subsidies for cultivation of local varieties of fruit crops developed