Soil Doctors Programme has been launched in Bukhara

     Soil erosion and degradation pose significant threats to sustainable farming in Central Asia. Uzbekistan is taking decisive steps to tackle these threats, among them the launch of the Global Soil Doctors Programme in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of Uzbekistan (FAO) and the Global Soil Partnership (GSP). This programme is a farmer-to-farmer training initiative, that aims to build the capacity of farmers on sustainable soil management while supporting national governments and stakeholders in addressing the needs of their rural communities.
     The Global Soil Doctors Programme is being implemented in Uzbekistan as part of a larger regional FAO/GEF project “Integrated natural resources management in drought-prone and salt-affected agricultural production landscapes in Central Asia and Turkey” (CACILM-2). The Programme has been developed through collaborative efforts involving key stakeholders, including the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemical Research, which is the National Promoter of the Soil Doctors Programme in Uzbekistan, and the Soil Composition, Repository and Quality Analysis Center, both from the Ministry of Agriculture. Further collaborators are the Tashkent State Agrarian University and the Bukhara Natural Resources Management Institute. The primary aim of the Programme is to demonstrate a real commitment to increasing crop yields, improving productivity, enhancing livelihoods, and safeguarding the environment.
     The Programme was launched through an extensive 4-day training course for Soil Doctor trainers held in the Bukhara region, Uzbekistan. Local specialists from relevant institutions as well as farmers were trained in the implementation of Sustainable Soil Management practices. The trainings focused primarily on tackling soil salinity and fertility issues, covering an extensive curriculum that included strategies for increasing soil organic matter, optimizing nutrient management, improving the agronomic properties of soils affected by salinity and understanding soil pH, texture and structure.
     Muhammadjon Kosimov, national manager of the CACILM-2 project, emphasized “the vital importance of improving soil specialists’ knowledge and recognize farmers’ crucial role as custodians of the soil”. He stressed that “Farmers should realize that the decisions they make in their small plots of land can have significant impact on the environment”. Kosimov underscored “the necessity of seeing soil as a precious resource to cherish and protect” and highlighted the key role of managing soils sustainably and the need to address the challenges faced by farmers”.
     Maria Ferro Vazquez, soil expert from FAO’s Global Soil Partnership, called attention to the key role of farmers in achieving sustainability in agriculture. She stressed that “the goal of the Programme is to help farmers to become more resilient through increased awareness of soil health and sustainable management in agriculture, in line with the Uzbekistan priorities on food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation and combating land degradation”.
     The Global Soil Doctors Programme’s activities do not end with this pilot, it is just a beginning. With support from FAO and GSP, the Programme will be expanded to other provinces across the country. The aim is to train a hundred champion farmers (Soil Doctors) from Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Khorezm and other provinces, who will, in turn, impart their knowledge to more farmers across Uzbekistan. The Global Soil Doctors Programme implementation in Uzbekistan will facilitate knowledge exchange and enhance farmers’ capacity to manage soil resources. This will lead to increased soil fertility and more resilient food systems across the country.
 

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