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World Bank Group : Reducing the Vulnerability of Uzbekistan’s Agriculture to Climate Change

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12/10/2013 | 09:43pm CET

World Bank report takes an in-depth look at the challenges and opportunities of climate change on agriculture

WASHINGTON, December 05, 2013 - Agriculture is one of the most climate-sensitive of all economic sectors, and without a clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, the livelihoods of rural populations are at risk, according to the World Bank publication Reducing the Vulnerability of Uzbekistan's Agricultural Systems to Climate Change.

The book notes that in many countries, such as in Uzbekistan, the risks of climate change are an immediate and fundamental problem because the majority of the rural population depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods.

"The rural poor will be disproportionately affected because of their greater dependence on agriculture, their relatively lower ability to adapt, and the high share of income they spend on food," said William Sutton, an author of the book and a Lead Agriculture Economist at the World Bank. "Climate impacts could therefore undermine progress that has been made in poverty reduction and adversely impact food security and economic growth in vulnerable rural areas."

The study projects impacts of climate change on agriculture across Uzbekistan's three agro-ecological areas and five major river basins through forecast variations in temperature and rainfall patterns so crucial to farming. According to the report, over the next 40 years climate change will grow more severe in Uzbekistan. Average warming will be about 2-3°C, compared with a 1.5°C increase in temperature observed over the last 50 years. Precipitation will likely become more variable, but on average increases of 40-50 mm are projected for most of the country except the highlands zone.

The annual averages, however, are less important for agricultural production than the seasonal distribution of temperature and precipitation.  Temperature increases are projected to be higher, and precipitation declines greater, during the crucial summer growing period. Summer temperature increases can be as much as 4-5°C in the piedmont zone of Uzbekistan by the middle of the century, and precipitation can decline further in the already dry desert and steppe zones.

The report notes that the direct temperature and precipitation effect of future climate change on irrigated crops will be mixed, depending on the crop.  Under the medium-impact climate change scenario, if there is adequate water available, slight reductions in yields of around 1 to 13 percent are projected for crops like apples, cotton, potatoes, tomatoes, and spring wheat.

Sutton added that "At the same time, climate change can also create opportunities, particularly in the agricultural sector. Increased temperatures can lengthen growing seasons, higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations can enhance plant growth, and in some areas rainfall and the availability of water resources can increase as a result of climate change."

For example, climate change can improve yields of grasslands in all three agro-ecological areas by 12-43 percent by 2050, and also improve yields for alfalfa in most agro-ecological areas, provided that sufficient irrigation water is available.

However, agriculture in Uzbekistan is almost entirely dependent on irrigation, so the report authors also project water supply and demand under a changed climate, and forecast severe water shortages for most of the country in the future, meaning that there will be insufficient water available to irrigate crops. As a result, the total effects of climate change can lead to losses for farmers of from 10 to 30 percent for nearly all crops if nothing is done to adapt.

Farmers in Uzbekistan are not adequately adapted to current climate, particularly regarding efficient use of irrigation water. This effect is sometimes called the 'adaptation deficit', which in Uzbekistan can be substantial for many high-value crops, such as tomatoes.

Although precipitation is on average likely to increase in Uzbekistan, climate change will worsen current competition over water resources because irrigation water demands will increase with higher temperatures.

According to the publication, the risks of climate change to agriculture in Uzbekistan cannot be effectively dealt with-and the opportunities cannot be effectively taken advantage of-without a clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, developing the capabilities of key agricultural institutions, and making needed investments in infrastructure, support services, and on-farm improvements. Developing such a plan ideally involves a combination of high-quality quantitative analysis, consultation with key stakeholders, particularly farmers and local agricultural experts, and investments in both human and physical capital.

"This book offers options for navigating the risks and realizing the opportunities. It identifies practical solutions for introducing what is known as 'climate-smart agriculture' for farmers in Uzbekistan,"said Dina Umali-Deininger, Agriculture and Rural Development Sector Manager in the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia Region."It demonstrates that the solutions are those measures that increase resilience to future climate change, boost current productivity despite the greater climate variability already occurring, and limit greenhouse gas emissions."

Reducing The Vulnerability of Uzbekistan's Agricultural Systems to Climate Change: Impact Assessment and Adaptation Options applies this approach to Uzbekistan with the goal of helping the country mainstream climate change adaptation into its agricultural policies, programs, and investments.

"The risks associated with climate change pose a challenge for agriculture in Uzbekistan, so the country could face severe water shortage in the future", said Takuya Kamata, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan. "The World Bank through several projects is supporting the Government of Uzbekistan to address water resource management through rehabilitating and modernizing irrigation systems and adapting farming practices to climate changes".

This is one of four country studies that were produced under the World Bank's program, Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change in European and Central Asian Agricultural Systems. The other countries included in this series are Albania, FYR Macedonia, and Moldova.

The results from the four studies are consolidated in the book Looking Beyond the Horizon: How Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Responses Will Reshape Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. 

All four studies, as well as the consolidated book can be found at the following link:
http://www.worldbank.org/eca/climateandagriculture

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