Shrinking Glaciers Threaten
Like many other
farmers in the remote
But the 65-year-old Tajik farmer knows what he sees, and for years he has seen his fruit and vegetable harvests decline as the glacier that looms above his village retreats.
"In the past I used to sell 50 to 100 kilograms of tomatoes and cucumbers. It's my main source of income. Last year I had barely any harvest," Yakinshoev says. He says that he used to be able to send five sacks of potatoes and carrots to his two children who study in
Over the years, Yakinshoev has observed many changes in Barchid, which is located some 3,000 meters above sea level and depends on a glacier of the same name for drinking water and irrigation. In the past decade, "it seems that the winter seasons have become warmer and the summer months much cooler and shorter than before," Yakinshoev says. "Summer is over before my tomatoes turn red, and the shortage of water is harming the potato crop."
And Yakinshoev isn't the only one noticing. Scientists both in
Suffering From Change
However, it is
one of countries hit hardest by climate change, according to nongovernmental
organizations focused on reducing poverty and its causes. A recent Oxfam
report, titled "Reaching Tipping Point? Climate Change And
Poverty In Tajikistan," warned that shrinking glaciers and extreme
weather conditions could erode food security over the next four decades in
According to data cited by Oxfam,
Drought in the country, in which nearly two-thirds of agricultural production depends on irrigation, has become common. Before good rains broke the cycle in 2009,
Temperatures have explored extreme limits: 2008 was one of the coldest winters on record, with temperatures reaching minus 40 degrees Celsius and contributing to crop losses.
Scientists predict that droughts will be ever more frequent in the coming years. Oxfam says that in addition to those that have already retreated or melted, up to 30 percent of
The Fedchenko Glacier, a massive glacier located in central
Overall, Oghonazarov of the Pamir Biological Institute says, "glaciers, the treasure troves of water, are getting increasingly thinner and smaller."
"The amount of water coming from glaciers is diminishing. In the past, spring waters in each village were enough to cover our local irrigation needs," Oghonazarov adds. "Now there's an obvious water deficit in our villages." Meanwhile, the rivers' water volumes have fallen considerably because of the shrinking glaciers.
Left High And Dry
There are also enormous economic issues at stake.
It's not only people who stand to suffer from climate change. Oghonazarov says many rare species of animals and plants could face extinction. "I can speak in concrete numbers. In the recent past, there were, on average, 10-15 wild plants per square meter. Now, that number has decreased by 20-25 percent," he says. "Around residential areas, the amount of grass and plants -- the primary source of food for grazing animals -- has decreased by up to 40 percent due to water shortages."
Oghonazarov says that all
Yakinshoev, in the meantime, is running low on food to get his family through the end of this winter, and is already anxious about the coming farming season. "I used to work as a carpenter during the Soviet times," he says. "But I had to change my occupation and take up farming because the money I got from my previous job was no longer enough to support my family."
Now, the elderly farmer admits he has considered changing his occupation once again. But considering his age and the rampant unemployment in the country, Yakinshoev fears it might be too late.