Drylands—an ecosystem characterized by lack of water, which limits the production of crops, forage and wood.
Many people living in Kazakh drylands struggle to sustain their livelihoods. Growing crops and grazing cattle in this difficult environment is a major challenge. In the previous decades, over 86% of Kazakhstan's drylands territory was largely transformed by human activities. And 3.5 million people—half of Kazakhstan's drylands inhabitants—are poor and marginalized.
Is it possible to revive these lands and bring back life and prosperity? Can Kazakhstan, a country known by its wheat, cattle, and oil as well as huge areas of drylands, set an example?
In the 1950s, the country's drylands ecosystem was considered sustainable. Over the years, however, 35 million hectares of virgin and fallow lands were ploughed and used for agriculture. As a result, the soil lost over 30% of humus—a conditioner which helps the soil retain water and nutrients—and the ecological balance became increasingly disturbed.
As the soil degraded, more fertilizers were needed for the land to yield crops, so more land was ploughed. When state support for grain production ended, it became obvious the land could no longer sustain wheat production without a huge infusion of funds.