Aziz Soltobaev
The poorest communities living in remote mountainous villages have been granted an opportunity to overcome extreme poverty with a new project. The project envisages teaching village residents, whose only source of income is cattle breeding, how to handle livestock properly to get better results.

The people behind this project believe it could double their income levels. «Poverty statistics showed that poverty in mountainous communities was 30-40% higher than in other regions of republic, particularly in valleys. Mountainous communities were places where poverty was concentrated. Our survey outcome in two pilot communities was incredible. Farmers said nobody came to them and offered their services before, while the people suffered from a lack of assistance», said Tony Ryan, project team leader, in an interview.

Poverty was endemic in these communities and has increased rapidly since Soviet times, affecting rural people in particular. Rural poverty did fall steadily between 1999 and 2004, and despite this important decline, poverty remains significantly higher in rural areas than in urban. About 70% of poor people are in rural areas, and the figure goes up to 75 percent for the extremely poor. The regional concentrations of poverty show that the poverty levels are highest in Naryn, according to the National Statistics Committee.

The four village locations identified for this project, two in Naryn in the north-east and two in Osh in the south, are among the poorest in Kyrgyzstan. With poverty affecting two thirds of their population, the village communities of Ortok and Ak-Muz in Naryn province are two of the poorest villages in country. Salamalik and Berinchy May village communities in Osh province have somewhat better living conditions and warmer weather, but are still constrained from summer grazing areas due to controversies over land due to the high population density in the region. Livestock provides the main source of income for the population, struggling to adjust from a centrally planned and managed Soviet economy to one of private enterprises and free market development.

«Field work has shown that there were four main areas of concern for livestock farmers: animal diseases, animal nutrition, animal housing and local processing of products. All of these issues are made acute by the long and harsh winters experienced in Kyrgyzstan», Ryan said. As a result of research work, the team prepared 15 demonstrations that will be applied in four remote villages. Each demonstration will show farmers how to properly take care of cattle health, including nutrition and other issues related to farming, such as the processing of agricultural products.

«Farmers knew how to do it, but we would like to show them new methods, for example regarding the pasteurization of milk. Brucellosis is raging in villages, negatively impacting human health. First of all, we explain the causes of brucellosis and then show that pasteurization helps to prevent such diseases. We plan to buy special processing equipment for them», said Kuvat Bapaev, deputy team leader. The team will also show how to take care of animals: storing high quality winter feed, preparing premises, providing ventilation, cleaning sheds, haymaking production, and reintroducing silage making for winter feeding that should improve lambing growth rates and improve animal health. Each instruction will involve four groups of 10-15 farmers.

«The overall objective was to have an approach which produced a set of events aimed at improving livestock productivity and household incomes, and which had been identified by, and agreed with, the farming communities», Ryan said. «We also prepared a special demonstration for the poorest farmers of the communities – those who have few or no cattle. We prepared a special project on goat-breeding for them. Each of these farmers will be given two goats. The project will cover fifty households in each village community. They will have to take care of and raise the goats. After a year or two, they will have to give two goats to other poor families in the communities. They will get additional goats as well as income», Bapaev said.

“Our project intended to demonstrate solar-powered electric fencing to prevent the uncontrolled duplication of livestock and wolf attacks», Bapaev added. As a result of the project, the income of village residents should increase and allow them to raise themselves out of poverty. «The thing is that we try to compare animals in New Zealand and here.” The lamb weight growth is continuous in New Zealand. When winter finishes, carcass weight in Kyrgyzstan is a third lower than in New Zealand, implying great losses, given the retail price of a kilo of meat at US$2.5. “Additionally, using our recommendation, the number of new healthy-born farm animals would increase, which would also add to their income», Ryan said.

CENTRAL ASIA — CAUCASUS ANALYST Wednesday / January 11, 2006

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