Alianza Mundial por el Suelo

Tajikistan embarks on the Global Soil Doctors Programme for improved soil health and resilience of its agriculture sector

With a mere seven percent of Tajikistan's land suitable for agriculture, soil erosion and degradation pose significant threats to sustainable farming. To tackle these threats, Tajikistan recently embarked on the Global Soil Doctors Programme, an innovative initiative designed to improve sustainable soil management. The programme implements farmer-to-farmer training, supporting and strengthening the capacities of farmers who are prominent in their community for their good knowledge of soil management while supporting national governments in addressing the needs of their rural communities. Developed in a collaborative effort with key stakeholders in Tajikistan, the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry (national promoter for the Global Soil Doctors' Programme), the State Institution of Agricultural Entrepreneurship Development Project Management Unit (SI AED PMU),  FAO Tajikistan, and FAO's Global Soil Partnership (GSP), the programme demonstrated a genuine commitment to increasing crop yields, productivity, livelihoods and safeguarding the environment.   


The programme kicked off in November 2023 with a comprehensive one-week training course for soil doctor trainers in Hisor and Dushanbe districts. Twenty-four staff from the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry and twenty committed farmers from Hisor and Dushanbe districts were trained. The training focused primarily on tackling soil fertility issues, covering an extensive curriculum that included strategies for optimizing soil organic matter, nutrient management, and understanding soil pH, texture, and structure. 

During the training's onset, Ms Zarrina Burkhvalisho, from SI AED PMU  stressed the importance of enhancing soil specialists' knowledge and recognizing farmers' crucial role as custodians of the soil. Echoing these sentiments, Mr Oleg Guchgeldiyev, FAO representative in Tajikistan emphasized the key role of managing soils sustainably and the need to address farmers' challenges. 

Ms Davlatova Farishta, Chairperson of the Farmers' Association of Hisor district, pointed out that a major issue faced by farmers is the high cost of fertilizers: 

"The main difficulties faced by farmers in Hisor district are untimely access to mineral fertilizers and their high cost. The Soil Doctors Programme also educates farmers about other ways to nourish plants without relying solely on fertilizers." 

An essential addition to the training was the introduction of educational soil test kits provided by the Global Soil Partnership. These kits enabled trainees to conduct visual soil assessments, equipping them to make informed decisions on soil management. The trainers will now go on to train Soil Doctors in their communities, disseminating the knowledge they have acquired, and will eventually be certified by the GSP.  

To ensure the programme’s sustainability, close collaboration was established with local institutes, in particular the national promoter, and farmer associations to identify committed participants, including women and youth. At the end of the training, Mr Khojaev Sharif Idievich, Director of the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry underlined the importance of translating scientific knowledge into understandable language for effective communication with farmers. 

The trainers highlighted the value of direct engagement with farmers, called for more training sessions for young scientists and the integration of new technologies into soil analysis. They gratefully acknowledged the practical experience gained as highlighted by one of the trainers, Mr Imomov Izatullo:  

"By participating in the training, we improved our knowledge of soil, which is very important and useful for land users and farmers".

This pilot marks the beginning of the Global Soil Doctors Programme in Tajikistan. Supported financially by the World Bank through SI AED PMU and FAO Tajikistan and technical supported by GSP, the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry aims to expand the program to 200 Soil Doctors who will, in turn, educate 2 000 farmers. This expansion aims to strengthen collaboration with national stakeholders, align with national priorities, and enhance farmers' capacity to manage soil resources more sustainably, ultimately boosting soil fertility and ensuring a resilient agricultural sector in Tajikistan.