Sustainably managed irrigated annual crops

Published: 22 January 2020
Last edited: 22 January 2020
remove_red_eye 590 Views


About 95 percent of the staple crop production in Tajikistan comes from irrigated land which underlines the importance of irrigation in cultivating annual agricultural crops.

The productivity of irrigated annual crops depends largely on the provision of ecosystem services, e.g. pollination, water, and soil fertility.       

Irrigated annual crops are usually intensive cultures that make for efficient use of land resources and constitute artificial ecosystems that cannot make contributions to the maintenance and improvement of biodiversity and ecosystems services. To the contrary, they mostly focus on applying huge amounts of chemical inputs and in many cases use water ineffectively.

The sustainably managed irrigated annual crops focus on reducing hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizer, and synthetic pesticides.


North and Central Asia
Scale of implementation
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Loss of Biodiversity
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty


Tajikistan | Zindakon, Madm, Pokhut, Jafr, Mazor


The following challenges are posed by the promotion of irrigated annual crops: 

  • Traditional soil preparation for annual crops which is based on ploughing the land is resource-intense, a wide amount of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides is required.
  • Irrigation systems require not only specialized infrastructures but proper management that reduces erosion and salinized soils.
  • Moreover, the threat of high temperatures and low precipitations is concrete and associated with climate change.



The beneficiaries of the approach are farmers interested to cultivate irrigated crops in a way to contribute to the conservation and promotion of biodiversity and ecosystem services.


How do the building blocks interact?

Fencing is the prerequisite for ensuring that irrigated annual crops will not be destroyed by domestic animals.

Contour ploughing prevents soil erosion and thus conserves the soil fertility which in turn is a condition for achieving a good harvest from annual crops.

Contour ploughing and water-saving irrigation techniques improve the water supply for the crops which allows getting a better harvest.


Annual crops are important for generating income, ensuring food security, and if diversified to nutrition security.

Intensive agricultural systems are usually less shock-absorbent and carry a higher risk for pests. The approach here described will make the production more resilient to shocks and changes in climatic patterns. Further, diversified annual crop fields improve biological diversity of plants as well as insects, reduces the need and dependence on irrigation systems, and has less negative effects on adjacent ecosystems. In addition, soil degradation and erosion can be reduced and soil fertility increased with low-/no-tillage techniques and crop rotation. 



The door in the stone wall surrounding the whole area is open and reveals a lush green garden under shady fruit trees. The owner of this garden in Pokhut village, Zerafshan valley, Northern Tajikistan is Azim Choragabov. He is 65 years old. Since Tajikistan is covered mainly by high mountains, farming is restricted only to the valleys. Climate change leads to frequent droughts and mudslides which endanger the harvest and cause food insecurity and malnutrition. Even under these harsh conditions, agriculture is the main source of income for the growing population of Tajikistan – also for Azim. When strolling through the fields, he gently runs his fingers through the blossoming potatoes and remembers himself some time ago: "Before I used to let myself go and to consume everything thoughtlessly. So I wasted my time. Then I lost my son some years ago. After that, I searched for a deeper understanding of life and I got more aware of its inner value."

When he gained this insight, he changed not only his own behavior but his attitude towards his surroundings as well. Azim became more attentive towards the varieties of local plants and showed an increased interest in their specific qualities and benefits. This was when Azim decided to get involved and to take part in the project on "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Landscapes". With the seeds which were provided by Welthungerhilfe, Azim grows a mixture of plants; potatoes, beans, calendula, wheat, pumpkin - and horse bean. "In former times, people used horse beans a lot, it helps with diabetes. Now I started to grow it again to share it with the neighbours and to sell it."

He plans to contribute the horse beans he cultivates to the seed bank that shall be established in the framework of this project.

Now, when he is in his kitchen garden, Azim is totally absorbed in what he is doing. He is a serene man richly endowed with inner calm and composure. At times, it seems as if he was listening to his plants and flowers. And he passes on his knowledge and love for growing local plants to his six children who help him in the garden. While his grandchildren are playing in the garden, he faces the future with confidence and hope.

Contributed by

Deutsche Welthungerhilfe

Other contributors

Public Organization "IPD"
Public Organization "Rushnoi"