Published: 22 January 2020
Last edited: 22 January 2020
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Although about 95 percent of the staple crop production in Tajikistan is cultivated on irrigated fields, rain-fed agricultural crops are especially important for smallholder agriculture. Rain-fed crops correspond to the climate conditions in the project districts since they occupy extended areas that cannot be irrigated because of the topography of the land and/or the cost of establishing irrigation infrastructure.

Selecting an appropriate location is especially important in the case of cultivating rain-fed annual crops. In Tajikistan, summer months are hot and dry. The last rainfalls in spring usually occur between mid-May and early June. 

In addition, winter and spring precipitation have a high variability from year to year which stresses the importance of cultivating native species adapted to the climate.

Cultivating a diverse mix of species is highly recommended in order to ensure soil fertility on rain-fed land and soil conservation.


North and Central Asia
Scale of implementation
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty


Tajikistan | Zindakon, Madm, Pokhut, Jafr, Mazor


Promoting rain-fed annual crops in the context of biodiversity and ecosystem services enhancement poses economic challenges since soil preparation for rain-fed annual crops is labour-intensive and requires significant inputs. Moreover, due to the hot and dry summer months, only drought-tolerant crops decrease the risk of harvest failure.

Relatively high risk of soil erosion is also a concrete danger, as the soil is ploughed or not covered by vegetation for most of the year. This especially, since heavy rain events in spring are increasing, resulting in soil erosion or even land- and mudslides. In Tajikistan, it is not possible to sow cover crops after harvesting the main crop (July, August) as during this time of the year no water is available. It is highly recommended to leave residues from harvesting on the fields to protect the soil, as practiced in other countries, instead of using it as fodder for animals.


Farmers who are eager to diversify rainfed fields by cultivating local varieties adapted to climate conditions.


How do the building blocks interact?

  • No tillage technique and water conservation measures both aim at increasing the water availability for rainfed annual crops.
  • Gully control and check dams, no-tillage technique and water conservation measures aim at rescuing soil erosion and thus reduce the risk of mudflows and floods further downhill.
  • Preventing erosion conserves soil fertility and thus the possibility of cultivating annual rainfed crops with good results.


Adapted rain-fed annual crops have a strong impact on soil fertility, improved by contour ploughing and cultivating diversified crop varieties as well as through crop rotation. This is also essential for the productivity and water-holding capacity of the soil that in turn will lead to a stable harvest and food and nutrition security.

Land degradation is halted and traditional, local varieties of annual crops are conserved and promoted.

The cultivation of barren lands ensures a positive economic impact by providing additional income and work opportunities.

Moreover, the biological diversity of plants and insects is significantly improved by applying measures of Integrated Pest Management and the natural stone walls and natural/living fences used for controlling erosion and harvesting water, offer habitat and hiding places to insects and other pollinators.



The remote Rasht valley located at the Kyrgyz border can look back on a long history of fruit tree cultivation. Recently, the farmers of Jafr and Mazar watersheds are rediscovering their heritage of farming practices in the framework of our project on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Agrarian Landscapes. Relying on still existing knowledge and experience in the communities, they revive not only old local varieties of fruits species but vegetables and cereals as well. The taste of pulses like lentils, which are rarely grown nowadays, brings back long-forgotten memories. Sa’dullo Hojiev was the first among the farmers in Mazar Watershed who dared to plant an old local variety again. Presenting his plot he tells about his rediscovery of lentils: ‟We did not use them anymore in a long time and were just about to forget them, but then we realized, they are actually very tasty!" For this attempt, he earned the well-deserved thanks and admiration of all the visitors. While the farmers reintroduce and preserve traditional seed, they try to grow innovative food crops as well. Very soon also the smell of freshly-baked rye loaf will evoke reminiscences of past times among the farmers and their families. On their rediscovery, they not only develop precious resources that can provide food and livelihoods for their families, but they also sustain their communities' essential relationship to their unique agricultural landscape.

Contributed by

Deutsche Welthungerhilfe

Other contributors

Public Organization "IPD"
Public Organization "Rushnoi"