Ecosystem degradation and conversion now poses severe threat to the biodiversity, habitation, and food security of Kazakhstan and other countries of the Asian Dryland Belt (ADB) region. Without intervention, there is risk that a positive feedback loop could be triggered which worsens degradation by increasing the need for harsher chemicals and fertilisers to maintain yield. Sequestration of carbon into degraded land is a rapidly advancing field of research. Could this be a solution toward land restoration in the ADB?

Agriculture is a vital source of economic progress and societal wellbeing for Kazakhstan and other countries in ADB. However, intensive agricultural practices have also become counterproductive, degrading land swathes through overuse of pesticides, fertilizers, and reliance on extractive processes such as monoculture and rapid rotation between crops. Capturing and storing carbon into soil allows for land restoration which could provide means to ecosystem and biodiversity restoration in severely affected areas. Furthermore, sequestering carbon into soil, e.g., by reviving grasslands and croplands, or by adding biochar to degraded soil can provide a highly effective means to reduce the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) program has teamed with the Center for the Joint Stock Company Center for Development and Protection of Competition Policy (JSC) in Kazakhstan; and the Food and Biodiversity Land-Use, and Energy (FABLE) Consortium to analyze the prospects and scenarios of setting up a pilot initiative focused on implementing a negative emission units production in Kazakhstan and extending trade of negative emission units to Eurasia. The project will focus on the potential for carbon sequestration and land restoration in degraded regions of northern Kazakhstan.

The reasons for exploring agricultural carbon sequestration and trading specifically are two-fold. Firstly, arid ecosystems and grass lands are the most cost-efficient types of biomes for restoration which means that Kazakhstan could implement agricultural sequestration initiatives at lower cost relative to afforestation or air-carbon capture technologies. Secondly, Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector already employs a large percentage of the population, however, climate change could jeopardize the long-term security of their livelihoods. NET schemes can provide an alternative income stream for farmers, land managers, and wider rural communities.

By removing CO2 from the atmosphere and capturing it into biomass and soil, carbon farming can complement efforts to reinstate soil quality and agricultural productivity for other uses in Central Asian regions where agriculture is still a sizable contributor to GDP. This means that farmers can improve yields in other crops, require fewer tillage machinery, and benefit from an overall more fertile and resilient land. Broader economic opportunities for rural communities meanwhile could also bring productivity improvements. Regionally, involvement in carbon farming could enable communities to attain diversified employment skills and create jobs within small and medium sized enterprises - particularly if international trading partnerships for negative emission units are established.

As countries look for new pathways to mitigate their CO2 emissions, the need to understand carbon sequestration and subsequent trading of negative emissions will grow. This provides a remarkable and timely opportunity for Kazakhstan and Eurasia to develop carbon dioxide sequestration and removal initiatives which not only support the domestic land and ecosystem restoration but also produce a tradeable commodity which promises sustainable demand in the long run.

To watch our inaugural dialogue in Astana, click here

To read our event report, click here

To find out more about the FABLE Consortium, click here



28 July 2023

Strengthening Synergistic Actions towards SDGs through the Lens of Systems Analysis

Solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges need not focus on one outcome but synergize benefits across to achieve multiple benefits. Tackling multiple problems using the same interventions can not only be cost-effective but can also help to align short-term benefits with longer-term transformations. However, synergistic solutions require a wholistic understanding of the context and environment. At Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA), each project strives toward integrating a systems approach which help to derive synergistic benefits.