The Kyrgyz Republic, in Central Asia bordered to the East by China, is a landlocked mountainous nation and the poorest of the former Soviet republics.
Kyrgyzstan has abundant mineral resources, especially gold, which has buoyed the country amid recent economic instability across the globe. But the country remains largely agricultural, with grains production in the lower valleys and livestock herding in the country’s high mountain peaks. About 7 percent of land is arable, with most of this under irrigation, while the remaining land cover is mountain and steppe.
Loss of Soviet support structures
Cotton and silk are among the main agricultural products, though the loss of the wider Soviet market has hindered commerce. The country also has fruit groves and the biggest walnut-fruit forest in the world.
With the advent of privatization since the fall of the Soviet Union, many irrigation schemes and the massive hydroelectric systems of the country have fallen into disrepair. Soils are increasingly saline due to faulty irrigation practices, but the lack of resources to invest means agricultural infrastructure has been deteriorating.
Falling agricultural production
It is estimated that some 310 000 tonnes of cereals will have to be imported this year to make up for this year’s again low production. Though harvests in the region have been good and Kazakhstan has lifted an export ban, the low purchasing power in Kyrgyzstan will pose the biggest threat to food security for poor families.
Until recently, Kyrgyzstan was able to get Kazakh wheat cheaply, but since other nations are looking to lock in supplies, Kyrgyzstan can no longer compete at higher prices.
For 20 percent of the population, about 1 million people, considered to be severely food insecure, the proportion of spending on food has increased sharply in 2008 to 74 percent of all spending. High food prices are reversing recent progress made in decreasing poverty levels.
Through a Technical Cooperation Programme project worth US$ 500 000, FAO supplied 500 tonnes of high-quality winter wheat seed to some of the poorest and remotest districts of the country. The support benefited approximately 4500 vulnerable farmers and their families in time for end-of-year planting for 2008, especially those that had lost harvests and animals during the previous harsh seasons.
The supply of winter wheat should provide for family consumption, a seed stock for the next planting, seeds to be given to local seed banks, and wheat to be sold to the market for added income.
A regional TCP project enabled a rapid assessment of the situation in Kyrgyzstan in July. The funds also provide for support and monitoring of the inputs supply programme over one year.
FAO’s quick intervention also helped galvanize a larger UN-wide appeal for Kyrgyzstan, of which US$ 2 million is required to assist 25,500 farming families (127,500 people), in reviving agricultural livelihoods. This will include improving animal feed and animal health, by providing fodder seed and training in fodder production, as well as distributions of maize and vegetable seeds when the winter months are over.