From 29 April to 4 May UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja visited three countries in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In Turkmenistan, he visited Bokurdak village, showcasing a good practice of stabilizing and afforesting sand dunes.
Bokurdak village is situated in the Central Karakum desert, 90 km north of Ashgabat. Most of its 9.000 inhabitants breed livestock. As a result of overgrazing and high demand for firewood, the pastures around the village were transformed into bare sand dunes with frequent sand storms. Families were forced to leave their houses, completely covered by sand dunes, and to construct new dwellings.
In 2002, experts of the Turkmen Deserts Research Institute together with the German Society for International Cooperation (the then GTZ) initiated a project, whereby families in Bokurdak village were trained to construct mechanical protection and to plant local tree species on sand dunes.
Kakabay Baysakhatov lives on the periphery of the village and had to move already twice after sand storms. Thanks to the project, Kakabay’s family learned how to make and install dry reed mats and what species protect sand from moving the best. Later, he learned how to prepare saxaul (Haloxilon) and kandym (Calligonum) saplings and grow them in the nursery. “Since we planted trees, dust and sand storms stopped and we have clean air”, explained Kakabay. “Kids like to play in the garden”, adds his wife.
In the first years of planting activities, many villagers, who visited Kakabay’s planting area, were skeptical about positive results. They could not believe that one can not only stop sand but also make them green. In a few years, saxaul saplings got stronger and fixed sand. Many families decided to follow Kakabay’s example and started to plant saxaul around their households. Six years after planting saxaul trees reached 1,5-2 meters height and livestock could moderately graze.
Convinced by the positive impact of the project, local authorities supported the community in voluntary sand fixation and afforestation. Today, 60 hectares of degraded sand dunes have been rehabilitated through participatory sand fixation and afforestation in Bokurdak village and neighboring settlements.
To make sure afforestation activities succeed, uncontrolled collection of wood for fuel and livestock breeding should be prevented. Due of the lack of gas supply, some 300 tons of saxaul wood were collected annually to heat local boarding school and hospital.
According to the local authorities, a gas pipeline will reach this part of the Central Karakum desert by the end of 2013 and the village of Bokurdak will have regular gas supply. This will be an important moment for the village, as it will bring social and economic benefits and will eventually decrease the clearance of desert wood.
For further information on the project kindly contact the National Focal Point of Turkmenistan, Mr. Muhammed Durikov firstname.lastname@example.org