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Is indigo the new green?

Among the land degradation processes, salinization due to both natural and human factors is a major concern. Excess soil salinity hampers agricultural production and crop yields, directly affecting rural communities both socially and economically. The adoption of new salt-resistant cultures can reverse land degradation and land abandonment in degraded and saline areas,  as well as help recover soil fertility.

The Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management Phase II (CACILM II) Project, supported by IFAD, is currently promoting the cultivation of indigo plant as a way to recover degraded lands and improve the livelihoods of rural communities in the region.

Watch the animated video produced by the Knowledge Management in CACILM II which tells the story of indigo plant and gives an overview of cultivation practices in order to better illustrate the benefits of this crop.

Besides the provision of environmental benefits, the cultivation of indigo plant brings economic profits that can significantly improve the livelihoods of rural communities. Indigo plant is a high-value commodity crop widely used to extract the natural pigment “blue indigo”. In Europe, the demand for natural dye indigo is increasing due to its healthy advantages over synthetic pigment. The price of the pigment fluctuates between 80 euro/kg to 240 euro/kg. One hectare of degraded land can produce 60-100 kg of natural indigo dye annually.

However, in fertile and fully-recovered soils, the production of indigo pigment can increase to 100-130 kg per hectare. Thanks to its various properties, the extracted indigo dye is not only applied for textile purposes, but can also be sold to pharmaceutical, perfumery-cosmetic, architectural-decorative and other fields of industry. Extracting the pigment requires simple methods studied and tested by scientists to efficiently respond to the needs and capacity of local communities.

Indigo may be the green solution to maximize the profits of farmers and rehabilitate degraded lands in Central Asia.