Drought is a slow-onset disaster that causes significant damage to the environment. Unlike most other natural hazards, the effects of drought often accumulate slowly over an extended period. Central Asian economies are still largely based on agriculture, which accounts for 10-38 per cent of GDP and provides 18-65 per cent of employment in the countries of the subregion. 58 per cent of the subregion’s population lives in rural areas. This makes Central Asia particularly vulnerable to droughts, which can reduce agricultural production, increase food prices and unemployment, inhibit market access and lower farmers’ income. Reinforced by climate change, droughts can potentially have a catastrophic influence on food security by decreasing crop yields.
Although drought cannot be prevented, its effects can be mitigated using geospatial information systems and data derived from satellites. ESCAP, along with the United Nations Satellite Center (UNOSAT) and partners, is working on drought monitoring and early warning through a project called the “Central Asia Drought Information System,” with Kyrgyzstan as the first pilot country. This initiative is part of the Regional Drought Mechanism, which promotes an innovative approach to using space-derived and ground information for drought management.
To present a case for building a country-driven drought information system, a feasibility study was conducted. It provides insight specific to the issue of drought and disaster risk reduction in Kyrgyzstan by answering several questions, such as:
- How are drought-prone resources distributed across the country, and how severely have the major crop- and livestock-producing areas been affected? What are the most critical food crops, where are they grown, and how do dry years affect harvests?
- How much policy consideration is given to drought, and what legislation has been developed to combat the problem? Who are the key stakeholders in the drought management process?
- What technical systems already exist in Kyrgyzstan, and are they adequate? What is the condition of the national infrastructure for monitoring?
- Finally, how should the country proceed with implementing a drought information system? What technologies and structure are best to utilise? Which institutions should take part in its development, maintenance, and use? What are the immediate options, and how should the system be enhanced from a strategic perspective?
The study provides insights not only into the technical aspects of drought monitoring but also into the country’s institutional landscape. Therefore, it should be a useful read for technical cooperation organisations planning to implement related projects in Kyrgyzstan. The study lays the foundation for establishing the Central Asia Drought Information System for Kyrgyzstan.