Farmers from Prespa and Namangan find common ground in innovations for sustainable agriculture

They live 4,000 kilometers apart, but farmers in Uzbekistan and their Macedonian counterparts face similar challenges, including how best to tap expert advice and how to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. Sharing experience thus offers an opportunity for both groups to find better solutions.
This was clear in the discussions organized recently by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) between UNDP experts and local farmers in Tashkent and Namangan. During two days of interactive sessions, some sixty farmers from the region studied and discussed the most effective methodologies for identifying challenges and developing ideas into innovative solutions for agriculture under the guidance of UNDP Social Innovation Specialist Jasmina Belcovska-Tasevska.
Farmers from both countries are seeking better access to extension support such as sustainable methods of plant protection, nutrition and irrigation, the selection of crops and plant varieties appropriate to local conditions, as well as effective marketing strategies. Very high literacy rates amongst farmers mean that innovative technology-based solutions can be readily adopted.
UNDP Prespa Project Manager Dimitrija Sekovski shared many innovative solutions recently introduced to encourage farmers to switch to more sustainable methods in the Prespa Lake region, where major successes have been achieved in reducing excessive fertilizer use and wasteful irrigation.
The participatory approach adopted by the Prespa Project supported the creation of a Farmers’ Association, the installation of agro-chemical laboratories and a state-of-the-art system for monitoring pests and diseases. “Through this inclusive approach,” said Sekovski, “many of the innovations introduced through our project were actually initiated by local farmers themselves.”
The Prespa project also resulted in the introduction of new and more efficient methods of irrigation as well as the establishment of a demonstration orchard offering practical training for local farmers in sustainable agriculture.
Sekovski also highlighted the effectiveness of small grants and the use of mobile communications and social media to reach out to and inform a wide audience, including a new online game that helps farmers test various methods that they can then put into practice in their own orchards.
The National Coordinator of Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme in Uzbekistan Alexey Volkov shared his experiences of effective agricultural innovations in the form of No-Till Farming, land laser levelling and other technologies that improve soil fertility and productivity.
“I found the workshops extremely useful,” said Hamidullah Akilov, Director of the Obod Zamin Fayz farm. “My farm has a large area of dry land where we cultivate wheat and cotton, so improving crop yields is a very important matter for me. One of the most interesting aspects of the workshop was the use of new tillage technologies. I plan to learn more about them and implement them on my farm.”
According to a report by the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, the world needs to find a way to produce 56% more food by 2050. This question is becoming a top global priority with the rapid growth of the world's population is leading to an ever-greater demand for food.

All participants at the workshop agreed that innovative solutions developed through the direct participation of the farmers who will put them into use will be key to making agriculture sustainable.

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