Threats to Kyrgyzstan’s agricultural sector – Le diplomat

Carrefour Asia | Economy | Environment

The difficulties of the agricultural sector in the face of water scarcity point to greater problems in Kyrgyzstan if infrastructure and policies cannot be fixed.

According to a World Food Program Forecasts, the summer of 2021 is expected to be much drier, warmer and with little rainfall for the entire Central Asian region than in previous years. The predictions were not far from reality. Kazakhstan hit record high temperatures in June, dealing a devastating blow to its livestock. For Kyrgyzstan, the situation was just as grim. The National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic has reported a 40 percent loss of rain-fed agricultural production in 2021 due to water scarcity and droughts. These figures did not surprise anyone.

Kyrgyz farmers and farm workers sounded the alarm as early June on water shortages and scarce precipitation. At first they received a few patchy responses from the Agriculture Ministry, with one claiming that it was the fault of the farmers to indulge in agriculture which is highly dependent on precipitation. After several organized pickets and protests met with such contemptuous reactions, farmers had no choice but to try to tackle these issues on their own.

Another group of people who have been left on their own to solve government problems are the workers of the Kyrgyz water irrigation facilities. A visitor at one of the facilities in Kyrgyzstan today would be found crumbling buildings, rusty machinery and equipment, an overgrowth of moss and algae, and the frustrated faces of discouraged workers doing what they can with the few resources they have at their disposal. government. These facilities have seen better days, but these went with the Soviet Union. Kyrgyzstan was left with the maintenance of these facilities, but due to national budget constraints this proved impossible. Attempts have been made by the government, which is involved in various negotiations with inter-agency groups, to start building new canals and wells, but it is not known when planning and construction will actually begin.

Since most farms are supplied by irrigation systems (mostly canals for Kyrgyz farms) which get their water from precipitation, rivers and especially melting glaciers, ideal temperatures determine everything. Current temperatures barely reached the adequate level for the glaciers to melt in the spring and rise so high in the summer that the prospect of precipitation is drying up both literally and figuratively. Therefore, the water supply for irrigation facilities is three times less than before.

Melting glaciers have been a hot topic of discussion among environmental activists for some time, as these glaciers are Kyrgyzstan’s main water resource. The worst-case scenario is that once these glaciers have completely melted, mountainous Kyrgyzstan, which is essentially a large reservoir distributing its water among the rest of Central Asia, will not be able to maintain itself adequately and will struggle with its problems. neighbors to look for a resource elsewhere.

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As the agricultural sector grapples with water shortages, the reported loss of rain-fed agricultural production in the summer of 2021 certainly raises the issue of national food insecurity and, more importantly, price inflation. of food as demand increases. The Kyrgyz government has responded to these concerns by some solutions. The most important measure proposed was the import of 75,000 tonnes of wheat from Russia to compensate for the drop in production. Importing is certainly a solution, but it is short-term and unsustainable for the future. A primary issue is the national budget, in particular how much and for how long it will allow Kyrgyzstan to import food to compensate for the delay in national production. In addition, Kyrgyzstan continues to suffer the economic consequences of its lockdowns related to COVID-19 and disruptions to global supply chains. The national economy is still in the process of reconfiguring itself after the difficult period of 2020-2021, with the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic (NBKR) carrying out several interventions to prevent the Kyrgyz som from losing value (what he did in 2020).

Water is often not seen as a scarce resource in everyday life, but it should be. With agriculture particularly vulnerable to climate change, farmers and farm workers witness first-hand the damaging consequences of the government’s disregard for unpredictable and changeable temperature fluctuations. Repairing and building canals and wells will not solve the problem of water scarcity. The Kyrgyz government must urgently undertake the development of a national climate change plan and provide Kyrgyz farmers and agricultural workers with adequate mitigation measures to avoid the loss of their crops and livelihoods. Currently, the majority of Kyrgyz citizens might not see or suffer the looming consequences of unresolved climate change issues, especially those of water scarcity, but what will happen when these issues eventually hit their mark? own door?

Lana T. Arthur