Economic analysis of afforestation of marginal croplands in Uzbekistan
Irrigated agricultural production in Uzbekistan is threatened by the impacts of land degradation, irrigation water scarcity and climate change. The conversion of marginal croplands to tree plantations is an option for rehabilitation of nutrient-depleted cropland soils, saving of irrigation water, carbon sequestration, and improving population welfare. The economic benefits and impacts of tree planting on marginal croplands, and policies that may facilitate the adoption of this land use are not well known. We employed various methods at different scales to investigate economically viable options of afforestation on marginal croplands on example of irrigated drylands of Uzbekistan. This includes analyzing the impacts of afforestation supported by the carbon (C) sequestration reward on the rural livelihoods. At field level (one hectare), the stochastic dominance analysis was employed to investigate the financial attractiveness of afforestation on marginal farmlands under uncertainty. At the farm level, the expected utility method was employed to analyze effects of this land use change on farm incomes. To consider the bimodal structure of agriculture in Uzbekistan, the stochastic dynamic farm-household model was developed. The results indicate that due to benefits from non-timber products, afforestation is a more viable land use option on marginal lands than crop cultivation. Allowing the exemption of marginal lands from cotton cropping in favor of tree planting would incentivize afforestation. At the same time, the field level analysis indicates that due to variability in returns a substantial increase in C prices would make afforestation as financially attractive as crops on marginal lands. However, when considering uncertainties in land use returns at the whole farm level, afforestation would occur without the C incentives due to improved irrigation water use efficiency and reduced revenue risks through land use diversification. Through the considered farm-household wage-labor relationship, the benefits of afforestation on marginal croplands at farm would be also transferred to rural smallholders employed at this farm. This would mainly result from improved payment structure by tree products, particularly fuelwood and foliage for livestock fodder.
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