Juniper’s comeback in Nohur

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During the month of November, dozens of residents of Nohur, a village in the mountains in the south-west of Turkmenistan, have come together to plant 1,250 juniper trees on 10 hectares around the village to save the ecosystem of their home.  Soil erosion, water scarcity, degraded vegetation are the challenges affecting their daily lives. The juniper trees are seen to be one of the main solutions to tackle these challenges. This tree planting is a result of the cooperation and consultations of villagers with the joint UNDP and the Ministry of Nature Protection project “Addressing climate change risks to farming system in Turkmenistan at national and community levels”. The Project is funded by the Adaptation Fund, a global funding mechanism to help developing countries become more resilient against the negative effects of climate change.

Ms. Jacinta Barrins, UNDP Resident Representative, who  joined the villagers in their last day of planting said that “UNDP is very pleased  to support the initiatives of the Government of Turkmenistan designed to address national and local level development priorities and needs in the area of environment protection, preserving local ecosystems, and improving lives of local communities.” 

Unfortunately, the natural juniper forests were cut down in the past for heating purposes. At the time little thought was given to the serious consequences of this human activity. The adverse effect did not take so long to show. Today, with  the absence of juniper trees the runoff from the neighboring  hills has increased substantially. Traditionally the villagers collect run-off from the mountain slopes and gorges in specially built reservoirs (howdans). In years with good rains the howdans store sufficient water to irrigate the fields, but during the last 5-6 years the howdans have been left unfilled due to insufficient precipitation and deforestation. Because of water shortages, the population had begun to give up agriculture and horticulture and has concentrated exclusively on livestock breeding. The consequent over-grazing in turn results in further erosion of the hill slopes.

However, with support from UNDP within the Sustainable Land Management project, implemented in 2008-2010, the community began to improve their water harvesting and saving techniques to assist the communities to ease and adapt to the increasing shortages of water, to allow communities to revert to agriculture, make livestock management more sustainable and to stop the increasing degradation of the slopes.  The new Project  helps advance these techniques further. The investment plan developed under the Project envisages the construction of eight dams with reservoirs, repair of two existing dams, construction of a new well, repair of an existing drip irrigation system and construction of a new one during 2014 and 2015. All these investments will ensure the future sustainability of the area ecosystem and resilience of local community to the changing climate challenges. 

In the current year, with the support of the Project, the community has focused on establishing nurseries for growing seedlings of indigenous species. The Project provided fencing materials, tools and equipment for nurseries. In addition, a series of short-term training courses were delivered on the methods of seed harvesting, processing and planting. These activities are to sustain the re-forestation efforts of local communities. Preservation of ecosystems and ensuring the well-being of communities is one of the main priorities of Government of Turkmenistan.

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Project Manager
Mr. Ahmet Shadurdiev

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