Partnership Launched to Combat Land Degradation in Central Asia

ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN (16 November 2006) - Five Central Asian countries have joined with more than a dozen development partners to launch today a US$1.4 billion program to restore, maintain, and enhance the productivity of degraded land.

Over the next 10 years, the Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management (CACILM) will work toward sustainable land management and reversing land degradation in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. ADB would, subject to consideration of its Board, coordinate overall activities of the partnership, which is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In the five countries, land degradation – from overgrazing, soil erosion, salt damage to irrigated land, and desertification – is a serious problem, directly affecting the livelihood of nearly 20 million rural inhabitants.

Agricultural yields are reported to have declined by 20–30% across the Central Asian region since these countries achieved independence more than a decade ago. Available data show that about 70% of the total area of Turkmenistan has become desert; while salinized irrigated areas account for 50% in Uzbekistan and 37% in Turkmenistan.

There has been mounting concern and intensified action by governments and the international community alike to tackle the issue of land degradation. All Central Asian countries had ratified or acceded to United National Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 1997 and developed national action plans or programs to combat land degradation. As a group, the Central Asian countries then developed a Subregional Action Programme for Central Asian Countries on Combating Desertification and Drought.

Difficulties in implementing the national plans and the subregional program led the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to spearhead the formation of the new partnership of development partners to formulate and carry out a sustainable and coherent strategy. This partnership led to the establishment of CACILM, which is being catalyzed by $20 million of grant financing from GEF, approved in August 2006.

“This project brings together a unique blend of partners involving countries and donor agencies to tackle land degradation, one of the most critical environmental problems in Central Asia,” says Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of GEF, which also serves as a financing mechanism for the UNCCD.

CALCIM program areas and activities will be based on each country's National Programming Framework as well as carried out within a multicountry framework. Committed funding up to end of 2008 is about $155 million.

“It has taken the concerted effort of all CACILM partners over the last five years to build the CACILM Multicountry Partnership Framework,” says Robert Everitt, an ADB Senior Natural Resource Management Specialist. “Now, with secured funding from GEF and other development partners, the CACILM Partnership offers Central Asian countries an excellent opportunity to systematically combat land degradation and improve rural livelihoods.”

National projects and activities will focus on nine issues, including management of biodiversity conservation and protected areas, integrated resources, pasturelands, sustainable agriculture in irrigated land, and forest and woodlands; and capacity building in land use planning, strengthening the policy environment, and remediation in the region of the former Aral Sea.

Multicountry activities will include integrating land management into planning, developing a land management information system, research, and knowledge management and information dissemination.

The CACILM partnership will showcase an initial eight priority national projects and two multi-country projects:

  • Kazakhstan-Rangeland Ecosystem Management
  • Kyrgyz Republic-Integrated Agricultural Development and Land Improvement, and Mountain Pasture Management in Susamir Valley
  • Tajikistan-Rural Development and Demonstrating Local Responses to Combating Land Degradation and Improving Sustainable Land Management in SW Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan-Capacity Building and On-the-ground Investments for Integrated and Sustainable Land Management
  • Uzbekistan-Achieving Ecosystem Stability on Degraded Land in Karakalpakstan and the Kyzylkum Desert and Land Improvement
  • CACILM Multi-country Partnership Framework Support and CACILM Multi-country Capacity Building Project

Coordination will be conducted through a task force comprising the members of the CACILM partnership and other international organizations.

The other development partners involved are the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), CCD Project of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Global Environment Facility, Global Mechanism, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Fund for Agricultural Development, Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, and World Bank.

Also participating are the Islamic Development Bank and the UNCCD Secretariat.