Uzbekistan takes a leading role in forging international alliances to combat soil salinization
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Between 22 and 26 May, the capital of Uzbekistan Tashkent, served as a meeting point for experts and soil scientists from all over the world. Notably, Tashkent became the epicenter of three major international events on salt-affected soils: the Second Meeting of the International Network on Salt-affected Soils (INSAS), the Sixth Plenary Meeting of the Subregional Eurasian Soil Partnership (EASP) and specialized trainings on salt-affected soil analysis conducted by the Global Soil Laboratory Network (GLOSOLAN). About 150 participants came together, including representatives from several countries including Australia, Armenia, Bangladesh, China, France, Georgia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, the Kingdom of Netherlands, Pakistan, Senegal, Spain, Turkmenistan, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.
The events were organized by the FAO Global Soil Partnership (GSP), the Subregional Eurasian Soil Partnership (EASP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Uzbekistan in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan and several other partners. Otabek Akbarov, Uzbekistan's Permanent Representative to FAO played an instrumental role in organizing these important events.
As part of this collaboration, a new project “Support for the promotion of sustainable soil management in the framework of the FAO Global Soil Partnership - Phase III” was signed. Sherzod Umarov, Assistant FAO Representative noted that the signing “marked a significant achievement. The project aims to further strengthen national, regional, and global capacities in implementing sustainable soil management practices.”
The one-week event centered on soil salinization was also an occasion for hosting the second meeting of the INSAS network. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress made over the past two years (2021–2022), discuss and identify the priorities, develop the work plan for 2023–2024, strengthen cooperation between the members, and improve capacities of the members through trainings programs. The INSAS training sessions included modules on modelling solute transport in salt-affected soils, stakeholder identification and impact for sustainable management of salt-affected lands, and mapping soil salinity with electromagnetic induction at the farm scale.
“It is very important to develop all recommendations, including scientifical and technical information in a way that is accessible to farmers. As the end-users facing everyday challenges, farmers must be able to understand and implement these recommendations effectively. When formulating regulations on the rational use of water and soil conservation, decision and policy makers should also consider the potential environmental impact. This comprehensive approach is essential for achieving sustainable development,” said Jorge Batlle-Sales, Chair of INSAS.
The GLOSOLAN training sessions took place at the Tuproqsifattahlil enterprise, which is part Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Agriculture. Laboratory trainings were conducted by international specialists and INSAS experts. Participants learned how to measure soil salinity, pH, and boron in salt-affected soils. They also learned more about management of soil laboratories including prevailing international standards in quality control and quality assurance.
“During the training sessions, we demonstrated the benefits of newly standardized procedures for assessing soil salinity, which have been harmonized at the international level under the framework of GLOSOLAN,” stated Giorgi Ghambashidze, a member of the GLOSOLAN technical committee. “These methods are designed to be applicable in any region worldwide where soil salinity is present. The results of these procedures will serve as the basis for the development of recommendations to improve soil fertility and combat land degradation.”
The Sixth Subregional Eurasian Soil Partnership (EASP) plenary meeting was held alongside the week-long event in Tashkent. Representatives from 12 Eurasian countries discussed barriers and obstacles to the introduction of sustainable soil management practices in the region and agreed on measures to strengthen regional collaboration and knowledge sharing and overcome the problems identified. The commitments of the Eurasian Soil Partnership are encompassed in the Tashkent Communique unanimously endorsed. A new work plan for the EASP was discussed and agreed, and the Partnerships’ governance was renewed with the election of the EASP Chair and Vice-Chair.
On the sidelines of the meeting, a side event was organized by the regional project “Integrated natural resources management in drought-prone and salt-affected agricultural production landscapes in Central Asia and Türkiye” (CACILM-2), which is implemented in Uzbekistan and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). This side event focused on addressing soil salinization in arable areas of Central Asia. Experts discussed the causes of salinization, the socio-economic consequences of soil degradation, shared
best practices, and examined ways of strengthening regional cooperation in this area.
The week concluded with a field visit to the Aral Sea, including a visit to the reforestation plot of the International Innovation Center for the Aral Sea basin, the Aral Sea museum in Muynak, as well as a trip along the former coast of the Aral Sea.
During the excursion, foreign and national experts visited the test plot of SATREPS (Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development) where salt-tolerant plants – halophytes – predominate. Experts discussed the benefits of growing multi-purpose halophytes and salt-tolerant glycophytes (plants that are sensitive to salt and cannot tolerate salt to the same level as halophytes) in a mixed farming agriculture system to mitigate soil salinization and improve economic utility of salt-affected agricultural lands. The tour participants were introduced to the work in this field carried out at the Karabuga demonstration site of the Amudarya Delta. In addition, the visit included training in land mapping using the electromagnetic induction instrument EM-38 for measuring soil salinity.
These events are an important milestone in the development and strengthening of international cooperation to combat soil salinization and sodification and ensure soil health at the global level. This endeavor is key to enhancing the sustainability of agricultural and food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.