The valley is a highly populated area in Central Asia (CA). An average population growth rate of 1.5–2 % per year is common in the provinces of FV (Dukhovny and Stulina 2012). According to different sources, population density in the valley ranged between 25 and 621 inhabitants per km2 in 2010 (Table 10.1), being as high as 320–620 persons/km2 in Uzbek provinces and as low as 25 persons/km2 and 90 persons/km2 in Kyrgyz and Tajik provinces, respectively. All provinces in the valley are dominated by high rural populations as in Table 10.1 with densities of 200–500 persons/km2.

Given the importance of agriculture for the whole FV, natural resources, such as land and water, have historically been amongst the most important factors in the development of the region (Qadir et al. 2009). Data from other sources depict that 44–45 % of the irrigated lands of the Syrdarya Basin are located in the FV (Toryanikova and Kenshimov 1999; UNEP et al. 2005). However, the amount of irrigated lands available shared by the three countries is already limited and demand for scarce natural resources will continue to rise with population growth. Hence, the size of the population depending upon these resources is consequently a key factor in political security and environmental issues. High population density also increases the risk of depleting natural resources (Dukhovny and Stulina 2012), and therefore, competition and even conflict for their control would be self-explanatory.

Land Use and Agricultural Production

The agricultural system in Central Asian countries, especially in Uzbekistan, has experienced continuous intensification with increased cultivation of winter wheat in the last two decades. Once the predominant crop in FV, cotton cultivation has declined rapidly since the 1990s while the cropping area under cereals for food security is increasing together with gardens and vineyards (primarily by the introduction of new lands in adyrs) (Fig. 10.2). The decline of lands under forage crops can be explained by the reduction in livestock in all CA states since 1991 (Lioubimtseva and Henebry 2009) and by the increase in winter wheat and consequent cultivation of secondary crops (maize for silage, sorghum, legumes, etc.) after the wheat harvest. Although highly profitable unregulated cash crops (vegetables, grapes and fruits) are extensively grown in the provinces, cotton and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) are still the dominant crops in the valley taking up more than 46 % of irrigated lands. Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) is cultivated more extensively than pima cotton (G. barbadense L.) due to its short growing period and relatively higher yield (WARMAP 1997; Ibragimov et al. 2008).

During the Soviet period, 3:6 or 3:7 crop rotations (3 years alfalfa and 6–7 years cotton) were recommended (Nerozin 2010) and considered as one of the methods to decrease the soil salinity (by reducing soil evaporation and lowering groundwater level (GWL)). After independence, this rotation was radically changed and nowadays includes 2:1 or 2:3 (2 years winter wheat and 1–3 years cotton). The cotton in Uzbekistan is cultivated in the first half of April and harvested in September (last harvest in November); winter wheat is broadcast seeded in late September (most cases in October) and harvested from mid-June till mid-July. In the remaining period, following the winter wheat harvest, secondary crops such as rice, maize, sorghum, sunflower or vegetables are sown from July to November.

According to Dukhovny et al. (2012), agriculture in FV contributes between 20.8 % (Fergana province) to 58 % (Sogd province) to the gross regional product.

The total production of cotton, due to reducing areas sown in the valley, (see Fig. 10.2) decreased from 2116.7 × 103 t in 1980 to 971.8 × 103 t in 2010. In contrast, in the same period, the cereal production increased almost sixfold (Fig. 10.3). The production of cash crops (e.g. vegetables) also increased in line with their increased growing area. These enabled the gross agricultural production to increase

Fig. 10.2 Cropping acreages in Fergana Valley during 1980–2010 (Source: CAWATERinfo 2012)

Fig. 10.3 Total production of agricultural crops (103 t) in the Fergana Valley during 1980–2010 (Source: CAWATERinfo 2012)

on average from USD 162 per capita in 2001 to USD 240 per capita in 2010 in the valley provinces (Dukhovny et al. 2012).

However, agricultural production in the valley is hampered not only by the unreliable irrigation water supply but also by the unreliable supply of fertilisers and seeds, inappropriate crop cultivation methods, limitations in the allocation of seasonal credits and funding of capital investments, limitations in marketing and processing of produce, control of cropping patterns and poor agricultural development informational services. These issues will need to be addressed through agricultural reforms and measures dealing with the intensification of the agricultural production system.

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