Kyrgyzstan: Revolution Revisited
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BACKGROUND

Agriculture is the economic lifeblood for Kyrgyzstan, with deep roots in the country's nomadic past. The sector employs 53 percent of the Kyrgyz work force and accounts for 37.1 percent of the national economy, according to the World Bank. In contrast to many former Soviet republics, the Kyrgyz Republic radically reformed its agricultural sector. In 1994, it started rapidly breaking up collective farms into many small individual holdings. Today, more than 250,000 private farms exist.

Cotton, tobacco, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only tobacco and cotton are exported in considerable quantities. Most land is pasture, for grazing by horses, sheep and cows.

But while rural poverty has declined substantially in the past several years and agricultural production steadily increased - by roughly 5 percent per year since 1999, according to the SOURCE - long-term problems for farmers remain. Many of Kyrgyzstan's farmers, like Narekov Orozbai, are former collective farm employees with highly specified skills largely unsuitable for managing a family farm and marketing their goods on a national or international market.

Politics can also play a role. In 2005 agricultural production decreased by 4.2 percent compared with 2004, according to official figures. The drop is largely attributed to the Tulip Revolution's impact on spring sowing. As a result, food prices in 2006 increased significantly.

Longer-term problems, however, could prove to have more severe consequences. Aside from difficulties adapting to a market economy, farmers must contend with outdated agricultural machinery, limited access to loans, worn-out irrigation systems in the south and the decay of rural infrastructure nationwide.

The Ministry of Agriculture says that the government is not able to finance much-needed repair projects on its own. Instead, emphasis is placed on six projects financed mostly by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for the $217 million reconstruction of sanitation, irrigation and water supply systems.

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