Kazakhstan: When every drop makes profit

With the new water saving equipment work in the garden doesn't take too much time as it was before.

‘Lack of water, dramatically declined garden, poor harvest,’ in this way a pensioner Michael Samokhotin describes summer 2009. At that time the authorities of Akmola region decided to disable summer water pipe to the village Arnasay because of the strategic importance of the local water reservoir for water supply of the capital. Michael, the veteran of elimination of consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, had to carry water from a nearby water pump, suffering from constant pain in his ankles. But he had no choice - a garden is one of the main sources of income for Michael’s family as well as for the whole village.


  • During the summer period water savings in the local community amounted to more than 86 000 USD
  • More than 2,000 school children and students of the district's orphanages received fortified food from products cultivated with usage of new technology
  • With the introduction of drip irrigation system yield production in Arnasay village increased 10 times (from 120 kg in 2009 to 1,200 kg in 2011)

The settlement was provided with water by only one drinking well, which wasn’t intended for massive and common irrigation. Thus, water was not enough for all, as a result, productivity fell by 3 times: only 7 bags of potatoes for the season were gathered, when last year dwellers had collected 20, in average. Villagers had to reduce the area for the garden. Faced with a shortage of water, the well-being of Arnasay inhabitants was under threat.

Joined efforts the community leaders appealed for support to the United Nations Development Programme. Through a joint global program ‘Every Drop Matters’ of UNDP and “Coca-Cola” company a project was launched in the village to implement water-saving technologies for irrigation.

The new equipment costing $ 180 per site can significantly reduce water consumption: the traditional method of irrigation required more than 25,000 cubic meters of drinking water for the season, the cost of water with drip irrigation decreased to 4,000 cubic meters for a garden. Thus, the system enabled to remove load from drinking water sources.

Practice has shown people that the harvest with this method of irrigation comes out richer, due to the fact that the moisture goes directly to the plant’s root, soil structure is not damaged and the area of ​​evaporation of water reduced. At the same time, the drip irrigation system is mobile and friendly to use, easy to install and dismantle to the winter and doesn’t take up much space.

Today, Michael’s family is one of 260 households in Arshalynsky district where ecological and economical system of drip irrigation was implemented. With new technologies villagers save up to 50% of the drinking water, while the yield increased by 2,5 times and the number of weeds reduced, the process of watering simplified.

‘Now we don’t need to make many efforts, caring for the vegetables and flowers in the garden. The new equipment allows reducing human involvement to a minimum. Most importantly, turn on the pump supplying water in time. This is a great help for those pensioners like me,’ says Mr.Samokhotin, who became disabled after 34 years of service in the chemical forces.

The drip irrigation system was also installed at the local school within project supported by GEF Small Grants Programme/UNDP. This allowed the educational institution to grow their own crops and provide children with affordable and rich dinner for less than 50 tenge. Needless to say, yields obtained after the introduction of drip irrigation systems have broken all records. Instead of 1000 kg of potatoes in 2009, 3700 kg were collected in 2011, beet yields increased in10 times (from 120 kg in 2009 to 1,200 kg in 2011); tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins started growing three times better.

For three years the school saved $10,966 on products that previously had to be bought. Now, the money goes to improvement of Viacheslavskaya secondary school in Arnasay village, and the children eat healthy food, which they help grow themselves.

The joint UNDP project introduced the drip irrigation system in the farmlands of more than 1,400 residents of Akmola region. More than 2,000 school children and students of the district's orphanages receive fortified food from products cultivated with usage of new technology. 7,500 people in five districts took part at the seminars of the project “Saving Drinking Water Together”.

‘As a participant of elimination of the Chernobyl accident I know the price of ecological catastrophe. UNDP assistance was timely and could prevent another environmental disaster in our region. Now, every drop is on account and brings real income to people’, Michael concludes.

Overall, for three summer months drip irrigation system saved 132,000 cubic meters of drinking water (more than 13 million tenge). This initiative demonstrated success of adopted innovations with benefits to the economy, environment and wellbeing of ordinary villagers. Heads of Akmola, Kostanay, Karaganda regions, representatives of Russian Federation and Israel Embassies, UNDP officials from Uzbekistan have visited pilot areas. Leaders of rural NGOs from Uzbekistan, particularly women-farmers, also have come to Arnasay for learning local experience. In addition, the success of the project became apparent after government of Kostanay and Kyzylorda regions decided to adopt practices from Akmola region, implemented a drip irrigation system. Thus, the small initiative in the Arnasay village initiated a new movement for the conservation of water in Kazakhstan. 

Michael Samokhotin at the opening ceremony of the project territory. Arnasay, Akmola oblast

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