Tajikistan is considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Central Asia. The effects of climate change are already visible in the form of increased temperatures, extreme weather events, and glacial melt. The agricultural sector is hugely affected, resulting in water stress and high losses from disasters and low productivity. In this regard, advisories, alerts, and robust early warning systems are essential for farmers and rural dwellers to prepare for and adapt to changes in the climate.
“With extreme weather events posing serious risks to agriculture and the rural economy, I do believe that advanced weather data will benefit Tajik farmers in guarding them against climate change,” predicted Abulqosim Muminov, Head of the Agrometeorology Department in the Agency of Hydrometeorology.
Indeed, agriculture is a central element to Tajikistan’s development path, contributing directly and indirectly to the gross domestic product. A significant part of the government’s revenue is allocated for food security, which is also given a special emphasis in national development policies and strategies.
Still, only after 1998 was the meteorology and climatology department founded at Tajik State National University in Dushanbe. Abulqosim Muminov graduated from there as an engineer-meteorologist and has been with the Agrometeorology Department in the Agency of Hydrometeorology for 11 years, ultimately becoming the department head.
“I recognize the importance of my job, as weather is one of the major factors that affect agricultural production,” noted Abulqosim. “The role of agrometeorology is essential in agriculture, since each activity depends on the weather. Using agrometeorological data and forecasts allows farmers to minimize risks related to production and harvesting crops and thus meet the population’s demand for food and other agricultural products.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization and European Union are strong allies of the country to ensure timely weather information for farmers. In 2019, FAO, with the support of the European Union, installed three automated weather stations, each in a different region (Tursunzoda, Konibodom, and J. Balkhi) characterized by intensive production of grapes, apricots, and cottons. The weather stations support the Agrometeorology Department in gathering important climate data from each region and producing advanced agrometeorological information for the local producers on weather changes, plant diseases, and yield forecasts, all of which help them mitigate the impact of climate change.
“Due to the lack of awareness on the benefits of meteorological services, farmers face challenges and constraints in agriculture, water resources management, and disaster risk reduction. However, thanks to the support to the Agrometeorology Department, very soon it intends to start reaching out to farmers through text messages and mobile applications,” mentioned Abulqosim.
In Tajikistan, the majority of smallholder farms use rainfed land, yet access to timely weather and climate information to guide their decisions is limited. Advanced data and close monitoring of weather conditions is vital to guide farmers in planning and implementing agricultural work, such as land preparation, pest management, and selection of crop varieties appropriate for local conditions. Therefore, decisionmakers should view early warning on abnormal weather changes and patterns as critical to farmers and a means of alleviating poverty and improving livelihoods, as well as supporting resilience programming.
“However, despite of these efforts, a significant share of the farmers are unaware of the key role and importance of agrometeorology in securing agricultural production and harvesting crops,” added Abulqosim.
In 2019 under an FAO project on strengthening institutions and capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and veterinary services, funded by the European Union, Abulqosim, together with a small group of Tajik specialists, travelled to Italy’s Lazio region to gain first-hand knowledge and experience about collection, processing, and dissemination of agrometeorological information, as well as network maintenance.
“The study tour was very fruitful; the FAO experts shared their experiences in implementing agrometeorology pilot programmes and addressed subjects that are very crucial for us to improve crop status forecasting and integrated plant protection,” explained Abulqosim. “We also had a chance to visit the Regional Agency for Development and Innovation of Agriculture and the Tarquinia Demonstration and Experimental Farm.”
Agricultural decision makers also benefit from agrometeorological applications, including government policymakers seeking to ensure adequate production planning, food supplies, affordable food prices for consumers, and sufficient farm income for farmers. Abulqosim Muminov hopes that this new approach will ease the burden of farmers to mitigate climate change and plant diseases, which in turn will lead to greater food security of the country and improved livelihoods of the rural population.
Activities related to the strengthened agrometeorological services and early-warning systems are part of the project “Strengthening institutions and capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and State Veterinary Inspection Service for policy formulation,” funded by the European Union. The main objective of the project is to assist the government in institutional reforms of the agricultural sector, including food safety and security, among others.