|GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY (GEF) PROPOSAL|
FOR A PDF BLOCK B GRANT
Project Title: In Situ/On-farm Conservation of Agrobiodiversity (Horticultural Crops and Wild Fruit Species) in Central Asia
Implementing Agency: United Nations Environment Programme
Executing Agencies: Kazakhstan: National Academic Centre on Agrarian Research (NACAR), Almaty
Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz Agrarian Academy, Bishkek
Tajikistan: Scientific and Production Centre ‘Bogparvar’, Dushanbe
Turkmenistan: Scientific and Production Centre on Plant Genetic Resources of Research Institute of Agriculture and Water Management, Garrygala
Uzbekistan: Research Institute on Horticulture, Viticulture and Wine-Making, Tashkent
IPGRI Regional Office for Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA), Aleppo, Syria and IPGRI-CWANA Sub-Office, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Requesting Countries: Regional: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
GEF Focal Area: Biodiversity
GEF Operational Agricultural Biodiversity #13
Total Cost of PDF B: US$ 700,000
PDF-B Funding Requested from GEF: US$ 350,000
PDF-B Co-funding: US$ 350,000
Governments US$ 163,000
Kazakhstan US$ 48,000
Kyrgyzstan US$ 29,000
Tajikistan US$ 16,000
Turkmenistan US$ 20,000
Uzbekistan US$ 50,000
IPGRI US$ 187,000
Block A grant awarded: Yes
Estimated Starting Date of PDF B: February 2002
Estimated Duration of PDF B: 15 months
Estimated Starting Date of Full Project: June 2003
Estimated Total Costs of Full Project: US$ 5,070,000
Estimated Co-funding for Full Project: US$ 2,600,000-2,900,000
Full Project Duration: Five years
I. BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT (BASELINE COURSE OF ACTION)
Central Asia is considered to be the centre of origin and diversity for many globally important agricultural crops, particularly temperate fruit tree species. According to N. I. Vavilov, Central Asia is the region richest in specific and intraspecific diversity and belongs to one of the five most important centres of origin of cultivated plants (N. I. Vavilov, 1931). Despite the erosion of natural resources, there are still 8,100 plant species in the region, of which 890 species are endemic. About 400 of them are endangered and included in the list of endangered species “Red Book”.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in highly variable domesticated crops with many landraces with unique characteristics. The main cultivated crops in the region are cereals (wheat, barley, rice, maize, sorghum, etc.) food legumes (bean, chickpea), vegetables (tomato, potato, onion, garlic, coriander, etc.), melons, industrial and stimulant crops (cotton, sugar beet, groundnut, sesame, tobacco). The major popular fruits are apple (Malus domestica), apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris), peach (Persica vulgaris), pear (Pyrus communis), plum (Prunus domestica), grape (Vitis vinifera), almond (Amygdalus communis), pistachio (Pistacia vera), pomegranate (Punica granatum), and fig (Ficus corica). Many valuable landraces and old local cultivars of peach, quince, cherry, pomegranate, persimmon and others are still maintained in home gardens and on small farms.
In fact, farmers have conserved landraces and local varieties in a dynamic way since they started cultivation of crops. While growing a mixture of diversified local materials, farmers were always able to select varieties adapted to local environmental conditions. However, introduction of uniform new cultivars, use of chemical fertilizers, and increased mechanization for increasing production have reduced the area of local cultivars and resulted in the disappearance of traditional diversity-based farming systems, arable lands degradation and pollution of the environment (water, soil, air) with fertilizers and pesticides.
Fortunately, landraces can still be found in isolated and marginal areas, such as mountains and oases where traditional cultivars are still grown and are considered integral components of these farming systems. These isolated and marginal areas will receive particular attention within the proposed Full Project during the development of complementary conservation strategies, selection of agroecological zones/ecosystems and project sites.
Many wild fruit species are also growing in forests in the region. These forest plants are valuable genetic resources for food crops because of their resistance to insects, disease and their wild adaptation. Species such as pistachio (Pistacia vera) and walnut (Juglans regia) are valuable not only as a source of fruit genetic resources but provide food for local people. Wild apple (Malus spp.), wild pear (Pyrus spp), wild plum (Prunus spp.), wild almond (Amygdalus spp), wild pomegranate (Punica granatum), wild grape (Vitis sp.) and other relatives of fruit trees are also found in forests in the region. Most of these wild relatives are utilized as rootstocks. There are also relatives of other fruits like wild hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) and wild barberry (Berberis vulgaris).
Over the years, the native genetic diversity of fruit species has been eroded, mainly due to increased overgrazing, deforestation, logging and industrialization. To counter genetic erosion, Central Asian states have established about 15 forest reserves where wild fruit species are preserved in accordance with State legislation. In some of these reserves, due to recent socioeconomic changes caused by the breakdown of the Soviet Union, local people have had to overuse those fruits, leading to genetic erosion. Sites in the Full Project will be selected so as to include some of these forest reserves in addition to on-farm sites and natural habitats where high intraspecific diversity and/or special forms are found.
The conservation of prevalent plant biodiversity in the region will ensure the availability of valuable genetic stocks for plant breeders and researchers. This will not only result in the survival of these species and hence the protection of the natural resource base, but will also provide a solid basis for sustainable agricultural production in the region. The high diversity of cultivated plant species in the region is an international resource of global significance, as well as an essential component of improved crop production in the region, and a key element of farmer production strategies in the different countries.
In situ conservation is concerned with the maintenance of species populations in the habitats in which they occur. For agricultural crops, in situ conservation refers to the habitats where cultivated crops developed their present-day properties, predominantly in farmers' fields.
The role of farming communities is central to the theme of in situ/on-farm conservation. Crop genetic resources in local cultivars (or landraces) are passed from generation to generation of farmers and are subject to different selection pressures, including farmers' selection. Environmental, biological and socioeconomic factors influence a farmer’s decision on whether to select or maintain particular crop cultivars (or landraces) at any given time. Participation by local farmer communities is a determining factor if effective in situ conservation is to be achieved. Locally-developed traditional varieties have been shown to be essential components of crop production in difficult environments. In situ/on-farm conservation provides for continued production based on cultivars adapted to such environments and for their continued improvement in ways that directly meet farmers' needs. In this way it provides a sound basis for sustainable development.
To date the tools and methods to support the assessment and adaptive management of crop diversity in production systems have focused mainly on annual crops. Little information is available to develop best practices for longer lived perennial species such as could be applied to the fruit trees of central Asia.
Five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are involved in this project. A number of changes have taken place in the countries of Central Asia since they separated from the USSR, connected, in part, with the transition from centrally planned economies to market-driven ones. At present, the countries of Central Asia face serious development problems, related to food security, eradication of poverty and conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. In all five countries, the agriculture sector accounts for the overwhelming majority of economic activities. However, none of them is self-sufficient in agricultural production. In the last few years, Governments have taken steps to restructure the agricultural sector and to diversify production.
The absence of coordinated and integrated approaches to the sustainable use of natural resources and weak communications among stakeholders is having direct negative impacts on the environment and remains a barrier to the development of effective interventions to conserve and sustainably use natural resources. Increasingly, human influences on the environment represent a real threat for all biodiversity components and, above all, for humanity itself.
The Central Asian Network on Plant Genetic Resources (CAN-PGR) was established in 1996 with the purpose of coordinating activities on plant diversity conservation and use through collaborative research on set regional species priorities, exchange of information and germplasm, and regional training. Nine regional thematic working groups have been established in the framework of the Network, and a number of joint missions on surveying, collecting and conservation of priority species (Pistacia sp., Pyrus sp., vegetables, etc.) have been carried out in the region. Another example of this collaboration is the establishment of a computerized regional database on forest genetic resources to improve access and use of available information in plant genetic resources activities.
The Central Asian Network has identified a number of areas where there are major needs for all partners. These include: 1) a very limited number of trained personnel and the lack of technical capacity in national institutions; 2) inadequate information on the extent of distribution and location of traditional varieties; 3) insufficient understanding of current indigenous knowledge (IK) systems and of the information they contain, and the application of that IK to conservation; and 4) poor linkages between agrobiodiversity conservation practitioners from different organizations.
Due to inadequate resources and institutional structures, the existing system of environmental protection faces great problems. Moreover, there is a great danger of further biodiversity loss because of the countries’ need to increase agricultural production. A complex set of reforms in the sphere of economic policy is required in addition to recognizing the priority role that farmer communities can play in conservation of in situ/on-farm agrobiodiversity. An analysis of wider policy issues arising from globalization is also urgently required to enable the relevant policy options to be presented to partners.