Digital Water Management Benefits Kazakh Farmers

Speeches Shim

Monday, December 27, 2021
Farmers bring in Kazakhstan’s harvests
Anton Leshenko for USAID

USAID Improves the Turkistan’s Region’s Water Systems, through Funding the Development of Innovative GIS Technology

Sustainable water use is essential in the arid Central Asia region, especially for maintaining vital food security. Marat Beksultanov, founder of AgriTech Hub, launched a geographic information system (GIS) platform to help farmers, policymakers and investors of Kazakhstan’s Turkistan region make better decisions on water consumption. Combining satellite sensing technology with big data analysis, this platform optimizes field-level water productivity on Turkistan farms, and maximizes crop-per-drop yields.

Turkistan lies in the Syr Darya basin of southern Kazakhstan, on the floodplain of Central Asia’s longest river, which flows through three nations towards the Aral Sea. The region’s semi-arid climate, fluctuating temperatures, and precipitation levels all pose a challenge to farming, which represents 18 percent of its employment and 4.4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Agriculture is not only an economic cornerstone of the Turkistan region but also Kazakhstan as a whole, with its importance to the population’s well-being only set to grow. Regional economic development and prosperity is directly tied to water, an increasingly scarce resource. As Marat notes, “Efficient water use means we maximize its tradeable value through higher yields, higher incomes, and job creation.”

The growing demand for agricultural produce has challenged local farmers to create the greatest return from limited water resources. Policy makers must make difficult choices in distributing water across agriculture, energy generation and industrial sectors, while also securing supplies for human consumption. 

Marat has been able to inform these high-level decisions, by providing data-based insight into how Turkistan’s fields use water. His platform, which combines GIS satellite mapping and data analytics, and his user-friendly app that displays the findings from this analysis, let local government officials develop strategies to match water availability with demand. Users can visualize how today’s actions affect tomorrow’s water availability, letting them plan for sustainable food security. 

As Marat says, “Due to its visual nature, our platform integrates data on water productivity, yields, crop distribution, and soils into one cohesive system, which is simple for even an inexperienced GIS user to interpret and understand. Such systems also facilitate investments in aquaculture and irrigation.”

USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade and Jobs activity empowered Marat to develop his solution to this resource management challenge. Through $100,000 provided by its Innovation Facility, USAID funded AgriTech Hub’s development of the GIS platform. With this help, Marat and his team acquired and applied modern geospatial monitoring technology and techniques for collecting and analyzing agronomic data from more than 120,000 Turkistan fields, and designed an interface for visualizing the results. 

With this technology local authorities assessed plant growth, water availability, and soil and climate conditions, letting them use limited irrigation water to achieve maximum agricultural yields, while also meeting the water needs of energy generation, industries and households. In parallel, the local government created a data collection and processing program for quantifying applied water use, applied for measuring water availability and deficit.

This public-private collaboration has created “shared benefits” through balanced water allocations. With these combined tools, users can easily assess multi-year irrigation dynamics and related produce yields, as a way of determining how agricultural land can best be used. 

Marat plans to scale up his innovation to other regions of Kazakhstan and to other countries. The Kyrgyz Republic is interested in the platform and app, an important outcome given the river system that these neighboring countries share. Considering the system’s success, the Akimat of Turkistan oblast awarded a contract to AgriTech Hub to assess water resources and irrigation practices beyond food production. “This innovation’s positive impact will help more than 100,000 Turkistan farmers mitigate water stress risks by the end of 2021,” Marat concludes.

ABOUT THIS STORY:

Since 2018, USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade and Jobs activity, through its Innovation Facility, has received over 150 applications and entered agreements to co-invest in 40 novel business ideas, within the horticulture, tourism and logistics sectors of Central Asia’s five countries.

Last updated: March 25, 2022

Share This Page