FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

GEF allocates USD 26 million to environmental projects in Central Asia

©FAO/Rustam Shagaev

01/03/2024, Tashkent

The Europe and Central Asia region has a wide variety of topography and climates and is vulnerable to climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been partnering with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for over two decades to support countries in sustainably managing natural resources and preserving biodiversity in a changing climate and to ensure food security and nutrition while reversing environmental degradation and its impacts.

A milestone in this cooperation was reached on the margins of the Fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP14), held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan when high-level representatives from both organizations agreed on continued strong collaboration between FAO and GEF.

Within the framework of the Sixty-sixth meeting of the GEF Council that took place in Washington D. C. (USA) in early February this year, USD 26 million was allocated to finance five projects of the Regional Programme “Interconnection of Water and Land Resources of Central Asia (CAWLN) for Ecosystem Restoration, Improved Management of Natural Resources, and Increased Sustainability.” Four of these five projects, valued at USD 18.6 million, will be implemented in Uzbekistan with FAO assistance. 

“The funds pledged by GEF to these environmental projects in Central Asia will enable FAO, in cooperation with the Government of Uzbekistan, to do significant work to increase local resiliency and food security, conserve and protect ecosystems and biodiversity, and strengthen sustainable agrifood systems,” said Viorel Gutu, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. “In natural-resource dependent rural communities, these projects will have a positive impact on the environment that supports the livelihoods of these rural peoples for many years to come,” he added.

The joint efforts will target land restoration in vulnerable ecosystems of Central Asia, strengthening integrated water resources management in the basins of the Amudarya, Zarafshan, Panj, Syrdarya, and Narin rivers and integrated natural resource management to improve the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity conservation.

“The new projects will introduce innovative approaches for sustainable agricultural production and mitigation of climate change's negative impacts on agrifood systems. With the close cooperation with the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change, we will achieve great success,” emphasized Sherzod Umarov, Assistant FAO Representative in Uzbekistan.

CMS COP is a significant international meeting where governments, scientists and stakeholders come together to agree on strategies for the conservation of migratory species and their habitats. During the  high-level plenary session, "Nature Knows No Borders: Working Together for Migratory Species and Sustainable Development in Central Asia," FAO, the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) signed a Letter of Intent, committing their organizations  to continue to cooperate and expedite the preparation of a Letter of Agreement for their joint implementation of the “Food systems, land use and restoration impact programme in Uzbekistan”. Funded by GEF, the project will introduce efficient land management technologies and conservation approaches in wheat-dominated production landscapes, and the methodologies to create environmentally friendly value chains that will help to realize the transition from ecosystem degradation to sustainable management in the Karakalpakstan, Kashkadarya and Khorezm regions. 

As part of CMS COP14, a side event was dedicated to sustainable development initiatives, raising public awareness around and participation in the environmental protection process. Participants heard an overview of the National Report on the State of the Environment in the Republic of Uzbekistan, which is intended to be a tool for the creation and implementation of improved environmental and socio-economic policy instruments, legal frameworks, and effective mechanisms for state regulation of nature management and environmental protection. FAO experts presented the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme and Legal Hub, a free online gateway to the world of sustainable wildlife management-related law. Through this platform users can discover all the tools and methodologies hat are used for assessing national legislation across countries with the support of national lawyers. 

These five GEF-funded projects are expected to be a driver of positive change. The projects will protect and restore ecoystems and promote their sustainable use, combat climate change and help transform regional food systems into more equitable and environmentally sustainable agrifood systems.