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Central Asia

The Asian region, which covers some 46 countries, has been organized for the purpose of this WWES study of sub-regions into five sub-regions, namely: Central, Eastern, South Eastern, Southern, and Western.  The following summary covers Central Asia.

1.         Introduction to the Central Asia Sub-region

The Central Asia sub-region covers Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  The present summary on agricultural extension and rural advisory services (RAS) draws on information in the Worldwide Extension Study (2011) as well as sources found on the worldwide web, and other professional documents (see references and resources at the end of the present summary).

Since independence from the Soviet Union, the countries in Central Asia have undergone major transitions from being centrally planned economies to more market-oriented systems.  This is particularly true of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The focus of the reforms has been on the privatization of state collective farms, which has occurred especially in Kyrgyzstan and partially in Tajikistan.  Uzbekistan has chosen to pursue land distribution via long-lease periods (Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011). Indeed, each country is experimenting with its own means of transition.

The agricultural extension systems in Central Asia are a mix: namely a public-private partnership in Turkmenistan, a public-private parastatal arrangement in Kazakhstan, and more pluralistic arrangements as in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Donor- and state-driven initiatives have helped to vitalize these agricultural extension systems, as have the informal linkages with non-for-profit organizations (NGOs). In Uzbekistan there is no organization that fulfills the functions of an agricultural extension system according to Nazarov (2008), but there are organizations providing elements of extension services despite major gaps in infrastructure, institutional arrangements and availability of extension materials.

In general, the newly emerged farmers have different backgrounds (school teachers, doctors, police officers, etc.), have limited knowledge of profitable farming, and are in need of technical advice. The extension advisory services that exist at present for these current farmers are those supported by donors and based on limited timeframe projects. Private companies provide RAS, but appear to be more interested in establishing expensive advisory units than in helping farmers in the rural areas. As a result, agricultural productivity is declining (Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011).

2.         Specific countries

Kazakhstan. The extension system being developed by the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan (KAI) is a semi-governmental parastatal system. Extension services are designated to companies such as KazAgroMarketing and JSC ‘KazAgroInnovation’, which receive 100 percent government funding. At the same time, extension services are also provided by a parallel university system, and by programs from research institutes, NGOs and oblasts (Johnson 2011).

The World Bank initiated in 2005 the Agricultural Competitiveness Project for Kazakhstan. The project was implemented from 2006 until June 2012 and the loan was managed by the KAI. The project supported the development and reform of major areas of Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector, including applied agricultural research and extension. The agricultural extension subcomponent consisted of four major objectives: 1) establish a government funded extension system, 2) provide a system of support to extension agents, 3) train and certify 175 private extension coordinators and agents, and 4) utilize a US$4 million Competitive Grant Scheme (CGS) to finance extension and training proposals (STEP-Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership 2006). Some 350 proposals of matching grants were submitted by: Kazakhstan research centers, KazAgroMarketing, universities, NGOs, scientists groups, international organizations farms and agriculture-sector companies. Projects were selected based on priorities set by academic and research institutions, and were implemented by the local institutions, including those in partnership with international organizations and groups (STEP 2006).  Some 570 grants have been awarded to farmers throughout Kazakhstan for the adoption of new technologies in crop production and livestock, and to help develop private extension (World Bank 2012).

In 2003, the Government of Kazakhstan created the state-owned company, KazAgroMarketing, in its effort to develop the private sector and improve market efficiency (Sutton et al. 2007). KazAgroMarketing has a system of agricultural knowledge transfer and information dissemination organized around 14 regional centers and 161 rural ‘information-consultation centers’ (KazAgroMarketing 2006, see Regional Network,). Services include market analysis, price monitoring, training seminars (e.g. proper handling of fertilizers), and advisory/consultation services on agri-business and on the general direction of the country’s agro-industrial complex (KazAgroMarketing 2006, Sutton et al. 2007). Under the CGS, KazAgroMarketing received direct funding from the KAI to establish an extension system, including the hiring of agents and coordinators and the training of 130 advisors over a five-year period (STEP 2006).

JSC ‘KazAgroInnovation’ is a leading scientific research company founded by initiative of the Government of Kazakhstan. The company is a private entity but also oversees a system of KAI organizations (KazAgroMarketing 2006), whose role is to provide scientific recommendations and to carry out scientific research and development, commercialization and technology transfer, as well as extension of knowledge. In 2008, JSC ‘KazAgroInnovation’ implemented a program for knowledge transmission and dissemination aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of agricultural enterprises and farmers as part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s project to establish agricultural extension systems in Kazakhstan (JSC ‘KazAgroInnovation’ 2011). Since 2009, the Extension Development Department has created a network of regional agricultural extension centers and plans to expand its branch network into all regions of the country. Currently, the extension program trains farmers to use modern technologies and gives advice to farmers on technological issues through both online advice and direct consultation with farm visits. Seminars are also offered at the extension centers and are available through an online ‘Farmers Library’. A free online farmer consultation service has been put in operation at nine Science Research company centers through a telephone-response service. As part of the budgeted programs for the Ministry of Agriculture’s extension system, 60 scientists and experts from JSC ‘KazAgroInnovation’ have participated in a training-for-trainers program (Johnson 2011).

In 2010, a Memorandum on Mutually Beneficial Cooperation was signed with the non-governmental organization, Union of Farmers of Kazakhstan Republic (Johnson 2011).  The memorandum establishes a partnership with farmers for the implementation and joint involvement in seminars that are planned as part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s extension program. Oblast agricultural offices also engage in extension activities. The Almaty Oblast, for example, was part of the management committee for the ‘In-Situ Conservation of Kazakhstan’s Mountain Agrobiodiversity’ project—a joint project of the Global Environmental Facility (United Nations Development Program) and the Government of Kazakhstan (Johnson 2011). From 2000 until March 2012, the project combined ‘in-situ conservation of wild crop relatives in specially managed areas with the strengthening of conservation within agricultural systems through farmer extension work on management of crop varieties’ (GEF 2000). The project management committee included representatives from the ministries of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Education and Science, UNDP, National Park Service, two NGO representatives, and the private sector (GEF 2000).

The Kazakh National Agrarian University (KazNAU) has developed a parallel extension system that offers rural communities classes through agricultural high schools and encourages community elders to participate in prioritizing extension programs (Johnson 2011). The University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources completed a three-year (2002-2005) project working with KazNAU to extend their educational outreach to the agricultural sector (Johnson et al. 2005). The project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Newly Independent States College & University Partnerships Program, established extension centers in three regions of Kazakhstan to help farmers improve production, marketing, and profits (Johnson et al. 2005). One research center was established at KazNAU to serve farmers in the Almaty region. The other two extension centers were established at the research facility, Scientific-Industrial Center of Farming and Plant Production, and at the Issak Service Center farmer consulting organization. The project conducted educational workshops for over 400 farmers on various topics and awarded grants to Kazakh faculty members for applied research. Extension centers provide access to computers, Internet connection and libraries of publications for farmers. Faculty exchanges helped train Kazakh researchers and educators in developing and conducting farmer educational programs (Johnson et al. 2005).

Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan has a pluralistic extension system. Extension services are provided by several NGOs, public foundations, joint ventures, associations, cooperatives, financial credit organizations, and to a lesser extent, the private sector (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The major extension service providers are the national RAS network (СКС, Сельская Консультационная Служба), the Advisory Training Center of Agriculture (ATC), the Kyrgyz Sheep Breeders’ Association (KSBA), the Kyrgyz Agricultural Market Information System (KAMIS), the Kyrgyz Seed Association, the Kyrgyz Community Development and Investment Agency (ARIS), and the Kyrgyz Agribusiness Competitiveness Center (ABCC).

Rural advisory services in Kyrgyzstan consist of feedbacks between the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Processing Industry (MAWRPI) and its departments, as well as with donors, the private sector, specialized advisory services, NGOs, and farmers and farmer unions (Nasyrovna 2011). This cooperation has evolved from technical, economic oriented services to facilitating relationships between farmers and the private sector, i.e. input suppliers, financial institutions, processors, and trade companies (Nasyrovna 2011). Between 1999 and 2010, the Kyrgyzstan Government established the national RAS network with joint financing and support from the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) (Mirzabaev et al. 2009, Nasyrovna 2011). The national RAS network is the only nation-wide network of agricultural advisors providing extension services, and consists of six legally independent RAS public foundations with offices at the Oblast (provincial) level and operating in all 40 rayons (districts) of the country (Mirzabaev et al. 2009, SDC n.d.).

The role of the government in Kyrgyzstan’s extension and advisory system is increasing—it is participating in the discussion of extension development and at times collaborating with advisory services (Nasyrovna 2011). In the Agrarian Policy Concept paper approved by the Government in 2004, advisory and information services to rural producers were declared essential for the food security of the country (Kyrgyz-Swiss Agricultural Program, KSAP 2004). Goals to be achieved by 2010 included expanding the established RAS, setting-up a computerized network to offer the latest market and price data through ICT, and enlarging the KAMIS information system to provide ‘peasant and private farms with timely data’ on domestic and external market products and prices (KSAP 2004).

The MAWRPI is responsible for the development and administration of the Kyrgyz agricultural sector (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The Policy Support Project facilitates agricultural policy development by the MAWRPI and is responsible for initiating the design of a national Extension policy (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The autonomous non-commercial organization, ATC, was established in 2002 and is financed jointly by the Government, SDC and IFAD, as well as its member-farmers. ATC works through the RAS network and has implemented various Integrated Production Management (IPM) activities; it also conducts training programs, provides demand-led information materials, and maintains an information database (Mirzabaev et al. 2009).

Donors play an important role in funding government, NGO and private sector extension services (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). Historically, rural extension services have been supported by technical assistance projects from international and bilateral organizations: examples include he Local Market Development (LMD) Project, the Development of Trade and Service Cooperatives Project (APC), and the Kyrgyz Agro Input Enterprise Development (KAED) project.

The LMD project promotes the development of collaboration and value chains among agricultural producers, processors, and traders in the fruits, vegetable and dairy sectors (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The project is supported by Helvetas and Dutch Organization for Development Cooperation and has established both the Fruit and Vegetable Association and the Agricultural Information Marketing System. The LMD publishes various printed materials and provides agricultural produce information via subject matter specialists (SMS) in 2006 (Helvetas Kyrgyzstan 2006, Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The APC focuses on encouraging small farmers to create commodity and service cooperatives and competitive market structures. It was started as a joint project between the German Organization for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Kyrgyz Government.  Its activities include the development and publishing of various printed materials, conducting training programs, and contribution to AgroInformAsia Ltd. (AIA)’s Agricultural Information Marketing System (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The KAED project operates in Southern Kyrgyzstan and is implemented by the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) with funding from the USAID. KAED organizes annual farmer events on new technologies and seeds. Attended by a multitude of actors, KAED is responsible for helping to form the Association of Agro-businessmen of Kyrgyzstan (Mirzabaev et al. 2009).

For a long time, the World Bank and the SDC were the only donors supporting the rural advisory services schema (Nasyrovna 2011). The Donor Coordination Council database contains a list of donor projects implemented in Kyrgyzstan and information on its various initiatives to coordinate and harmonize the assistance and support provided by the different development partners (e.g. the Japan International Cooperation Agency – JICA, the World Bank, and the U.S. Agency for International Development – USAID).

Non-profit organizations that provide advisory services include the ABCC, the ARIS, the Public Foundation for Rural Development “Elet” (RCD-Elet), the Alliance of Central Asian Mountain Communities (AGOCA), the Fruit & Vegetable Processing Enterprises Association (FVPEA), the Public Foundation Development and Cooperation in Central Asia-Central Asian Platform (DCCA-CAP), and the Central Asian Mountain Partnership Alatoo (CAMP Alatoo). The ABCC is in the process of creating a Marketing Information Center and collaborates with the MAWRPI, the RAS network and other local and international organizations (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). ARIS works with an array of local partners (e.g. MAWRPI, the RAS network, NGOs, farmers cooperatives), is financed through various donor projects and organizes trainings, workshops and exchange visits for farmers (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). ARIS also prepares and publishes a bi-monthly bulletin, various thematic booklets, and radio programs.  RCD-Elet works to improve the livelihood opportunities of people in poor communities and produces various printed materials and TV programs for farmers (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The AGOCA is an association that works with mountain communities and conducts various agricultural activities including sustainable use of pastures, micro-crediting, and water and soil conservation; it unites 17 mountain villages in Kyrgyzstan (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). FVPEA provides training on marketing to its members—small to medium scale fruit and vegetable processors—and works to strengthen their linkages with farmers. DCCA-CAP works with non-governmental, religious and civil society organizations through capacity building activities. CAMP-Alatoo promotes the sustainable management of natural resources by local communities in the Central Asian mountain regions; its main activities include information exchange and dissemination and awareness building and education (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). Another NGO, the Training and Extension System Centre (TES), founded in 1999 jointly by Osh State University and a GTZ project, had 38 extension workers in 2009, works with 40-50 freelance advisors and trainers every year, and serves more than 200 farmer groups through paid services (Nasyrovna 2011). Since 2003, TES is funded with no government assistance mainly by donors (70-80%) and farmers (10-15%), and to a lesser extent by financial institutions, processing and trade companies (up to 5%).

The role of the private sector consists mainly of supplying inputs, seeds and breeds; providing credit, and marketing and processing (Nasyrovna 2011). One private company that provides extension services is AIA, which was established in 2006 with support from the LMD. AIA develops and maintains the Agricultural Information Marketing System (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). One of the main components of the system is information on extension services, but the system, in general, provides information on agricultural inputs and outputs.

In 2009, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas Regional office for Central Asia and the Caucasus (ICARDA-CAC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conducted survey interviews with 24 organizations from state, nonstate, and the private sector as well as agricultural and rural development projects in Kyrgyzstan to identify the policy and legal frameworks, institutional setup and linkage characteristics among the major agricultural stakeholders in the country (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The surveys revealed that the current arrangements for collaboration among institutions for agricultural research and development are not working effectively. The agricultural research and education systems appear to be largely disconnected from the civil society—the latter include extension organizations, farmer groups, cooperatives, as well as the private sector. However, the surveys also indicated that the ICT sector is developing rapidly in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with many organizations communicating through the Internet and mobile phone, but with access to up-to-date information still remaining problematic especially in rural areas. Of the 24 organizations interviewed by Mirzabaev et al. (2009), 70% were involved in information, extension and advisory services, and marketing. Those providing extension and advisory services are research institutes, non-profits, NGOs, private companies, cooperatives and associations, and the Kyrgyz Agrarian University.

Tajikistan. The agricultural extension system in Tajikistan is highly pluralistic with extension services provided by a range of actors, including the public sector and private-sector firms, as well as both international and domestic NGOs. There are more than 30 extension and advisory service organizations in Tajikistan with most being private sector or NGO service providers; collectively, however, extension and advisory services impact less than 10% of the farm households in the country.

With the exception of the new public extension system that was started in 2011 at the Jamoat or sub-district level, most extension and advisory services are donor driven, with almost all of the effective extension and advisory services being provided through different donor initiatives, some that utilize a ‘pay-for-service’ approach. Within this approach, there are different strategies ranging from being crop or livestock specific, expecting farmers to pay some of the cost of these advisory services, or recovering these costs in-directly through input supply or micro-credit firms (Swanson 2006).

A comprehensive Agrarian Reform, through Resolution 406 of the Government of Tajikistan (July 2009), is the backbone of the country’s current agricultural reform program. It is the product of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA)’s Support to the Establishment of a National Advisory Service or SENAS project, which led to the creation of a national system of advisory services in 2009. The Agrarian Reform provides the framework for developing an effective agriculture extension system (SENAS 2008). Its key priorities, already agreed upon with the donor community, are: 1) to create the National Association of Agricultural Advisory Services (i.e. Agrodonish), including the public and private sectors, as well as the NGOs; 2) to coordinate all advisory service providers by creating a coordination center for the different service providers to meet, discuss and refine their extension strategies; and 3) to hire one to two agronomists in each Rayon (district) to function as extension advisors.

The primary public agricultural extension organizations that play some role at the national level in organizing, coordinating and/or providing some type of extension and advisory services are: Agrodonish, the National Association of Dehkan Farms (NADF), the Agricultural Information Service of Tajikistan (AIST), the National Agricultural Training Center (NATC), the Center of Information and Press for the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Public Agricultural Offices at the Rayon (district) and Jamoat (sub-district) Levels.

Agrodonish is the Association of Extension Organizations in Tajikistan that was established in October 2009 with European Union (EU) funding. Its role is to coordinate and ensure that all of its member organizations provide good advisory services to Tajik farmers. Agrodonish currently includes six member institutions in Tajikistan: the Agricultural Information Network (AIN), Zarzamin, EHIO—Farhang va Tarakkiyot, the Agricultural Training and Advisory Center (ATAC), the National Agricultural Training Center (NATC), and the National Association of Dehkan Farms (NADF). However, most private sector and NGO extension/advisory service providers are not members of Agrodonish.

The National Association of Dehkan Farms (NADF) was established by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and includes 109 Dehkan Farms with 6,911 farm members. At the present time, however, the public sector is providing little if any advisory services to Dehkan Farms. NADF is responsible for setting-up the AIST organization and together maintained 21 extension workers in 2009 (WWES 2011). Since January 2008, AIST has focused on monitoring markets inside Tajikistan (WWES 2011). Its website (see: ) makes available a considerable amount of technical, market and other information on all types of crop and livestock systems.  Given that few, if any farmers have Internet access, the AIST is very interested in making market and other information more easily available to farmers using mobile phones.

The NATC was established in 2002 under the World Bank’s Farm Privatization Support Project and is a member of Agrodonish. Since 2003, the center has offered a large range of courses beginning with a Train-the-Trainer agricultural extension course to a more recent GIS-GPS training course for qualified ICT technicians. In the past year the center has trained agriculturalists from 14 NGOs and these, in turn, have created 1,095 producer groups in southern Tajikistan focusing on many different types of crop and livestock systems. Although there are 12 full time staff at the NATC, the center primarily hires agricultural specialists as consultants in the specific areas being addressed by each training course.

In 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture created a national system of advisory services.  There are 10 members in the Working Group, including representatives from research, the Agrarian University and other service providers.  They worked closely with the SENAS project and they had the opportunity to visit nearby countries to assess their extension and advisory systems.  They prepared the Agrarian Reform document that was sent to the President in April 2011.

Starting in May 2011, the Civil Administration at the Jamoat level was able to pass a national law authorizing them to hire agricultural extension personnel at the Jamoat level.  As of 2012, they have hired about 420 agricultural extension workers, one for each Jamoat.  Most of these new hires are about 45 years of age, have B.Sc. degrees from the Tajik Agrarian University (TAU), but most of this training was in agronomy and cotton production.  A key issue is to get the agricultural specialists (SMSs) at the district level (Ministry of Agriculture) affiliated with these new agronomists that have been hired at the Jamoat level.  Also, these new Jamoat agronomists will need to be trained in both technical and process skills so they can provide good advisory services to the small-scale men and women farmers being served, especially on their backyard gardens and other available “presidential land.”  This training should include both up-to-date technical information about appropriate crop and livestock systems for their specific Jamoat/Rayon, as well as process skills about organizing self-help groups (SHGs) and then transforming these SHGs, so they can produce and market specific crop or livestock systems (Swanson, 2012).

According to a survey carried out by Agrodonish, there are 25 private sector firms and NGOs providing advisory services to selected farm households, primarily in the Sugd and Dushanbe RSD oblasts (regions). Private sector organizations (including Input Supply Dealers) providing advisory services are: the Tajikistan Agricultural Finance Framework (TAFF), the Family Farming Project (FFP) being implemented by DAI, the Productive Agricultural Project—(PRO-APT) implemented by ACDI-VOCA, the Rural Growth Project (AFC Consultants International), the Local Market Development (LMD) program, and Sugd AgroServe Consulting. Most private sector firms and some NGOs are focused on more progressive farmers that have more land resources and/or are looking for more innovative ways to increase farm household income. More than 95% of these organizations, which provide some type of advisory services, are donor funded projects, which generally last 5 years or less. 

These Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are providing extension services, including the Agricultural Training and Advisory Center  (ATAC), the Local Market Development (LMD) NGO, the EHIO project implemented by Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), the Agency for Support Development Process (ASDP), the Advisory Information Network (AIN), the Mehrangez NGO, and the Ghamkhori NGO.  The LMD NGO is a project funded by Helvetas, which began in 2008 in the Sugd Oblast and will end December 2012.  The project plans to serve about 1,000 farmers with 0.3 ha of land/farmer by the end of 2011. The NGO implementing this project aims to get processors and farmer groups more closely linked together by using a strategy that will begin by providing intensive training about how to produce different crops, but that will shift to providing advisory only on a “demand” basis.

The AIN was established in 2007 and is financed by the EU and other donors. It currently has 14 members and 83 extension workers that provide services in two Oblasts, including both at the Rayon (district) and Jamoat (sub-district) levels.  The AIN initially created Agricultural Information Centers, which have now been converted into commercial centers that develop and disseminate advisory packages for different crop, livestock and other systems. Currently, the AIN is serving six Rayons (districts) and 30 Jamoats (sub-districts) and are conducting training using a “farmer-to-farmer” training approach.

Four organizations that according to SENAS (2008) have developed their own extension systems are: the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), the NGO Jovid, the Association of Professional Agrobusiness Consultants – ZarZamin or Golden Earth, and the Agriculture Training and Advisory Center (ATAC) (cited in Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011). These extension systems include the Rural Advisory Information Centers, Agro Business Innovation Centers, and Rural Advisory Centers. As with the Donor Coordination Council in Kyrgyzstan, donors in Tajikistan have initiated the Joint Country Support Strategy to improve the coordination of farmer services; accordingly, donors are also pooling donor resources through a national Legal Aid and Extension Center Network instead of providing individual financial assistance to centers (Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011).

Some organizations that provide extension services in Kyrgyzstan also have branches in Tajikistan. These include the CAMP Kuhiston Public Association branch of the CAMP Alatoo public foundation; the AGOCA Tajikistan branch, which unites 11 mountain villages in Tajikistan, and the Local Market Development (LMD) project, which (as in Kyrgyzstan) operates in the fruit and vegetable processing and dairy sectors (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The Agro Vita Ltd., a private company affiliated to Nunhems Netherlands BV, operates in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (Mirzabaev et al. 2009). The company promotes farmer’s agricultural knowledge and cooperates with IFDC and Helvetas in training farmers (Mirzabaev et al. 2009).

Besides the AIST, Tajikistan also has its own Internet portal for providing agricultural information.   Users have access to information via the web portal SMS-packages and the Agricultural Newspaper (Tajikistan Agricultural Information Marketing System 2011).

In addition to the AIST website, another ICT initiative in Tajikistan is the Internet portal for agricultural information (, developed by Sugd AgroServe (SAS) Consulting. SAS also publishes newsletters for their more than 1,000 members and makes information on different crops (e.g. planting and harvesting information) available via SMS-packages (i.e. text messages). For a nominal fee, farmers can have access to more comprehensive information; at present, SAS has 98 subscribers who pay for information on specific crops.

Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has developed a public-private extension partnership, which includes donor involvement.  The Government’s National Plan 2020 proposes to develop a long-term strategy for agricultural reform and private sector development.  Within this strategy the Ministry of Agriculture will design a web-based unified national network for agricultural information and advisory services (Agro-Net), as well as an ICT-based management information system (MIS) (Europa House 2005).

The Ministry of Agriculture is also cooperating with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the GTZ to promote local development.  The UNDP/GEF/GIZ partnership has launched a joint project called the ‘Local community capacity building and investment for sustainable land resource management’. One of the main outcomes of the project, the ‘Durnukly Osush’ (meaning Sustainable development) has, among other objectives, that of providing consultation services on sustainable management of irrigated lands at the local level; it maintained seven extension workers in 2010 (WWES 2011).  The mission of the organization is to strengthen activities on the use and dissemination of knowledge and experience in the sphere of agriculture and capacity building at the local level by means of involving local population in implementation of modern technologies in irrigated agriculture (WWES 2011).

A joint program was initiated by the UNDP, Ministry of Economy and Development, Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Turkmenistan, the Union of Entrepreneurs, other international organizations and other relevant stakeholders to further address the issue of private sector development, (UNDP Turkmenistan 2010).  The program will focus on the promotion of small and micro enterprises and will cover three interrelated components: i) capacity building support for the Government of Turkmenistan on SME development; ii) expanding access to rural finance; and iii) developing business support infrastructure in rural areas. This latter, third component includes supporting the individualization of agriculture through technical and business assistance to farmers through a range of agricultural extension services (UNDP Turkmenistan 2010).

Uzbekistan. The agricultural sector in Uzbekistan has gone through substantial reforms since 1992, which have given rise to various forms of advisory services. One of the biggest reforms involved the complete transformation of shirkat farms to private farms. This has led to a current effort to develop advisory services to specialized private farms (Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011).

The public sector Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (MAWR), according to the World Bank (2007), has no unit for environmental issues, nor does it provide agricultural extension services. This agrees with the findings by Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011), which report no national policy framework on extension service development, despite the fact that MAWR is responsible for the organization and coordination of all agricultural activities including extension service to farmers. The authors, however, do list various organizations providing ‘some elements of agricultural extension services’ that are identified in a case study by Nazarov (2008). These are: the Association of Private Farmers (APF), the Rural Business Advisory Services (RBAS), the Agricultural Service Center, Agro-firms, Basin Irrigation System Authorities  (BISAs), Rayon Agriculture and Water Resources Authorities – Rayselvodkhoz, District polygons initiated by MAWR, WUAs, Alternative Machine Tractor Pools (AMTP), and Academic and research institutes including the Uzbeks Agriculture and Production Center, SANIIRI, Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Melioration (TIIM) and Tashkent State Agrarian University (TSAU).

A project supported by the SDC, the Water Productivity Improvement Project (WPI), is attempting to fill the gap between research and extension in Uzbekistan, according to Kazbekov and Qureshi (2011). The WPI project aims to disseminate knowledge, in a simplified and understandable manner, on how technologies can help farmers increase the efficiency of water use. The project worked with three existing BISAs to provide training to farmers via Farmer Field Schools on effective irrigation technologies.

3.         Trends

The agricultural extension systems in Central Asia are diverse. There is a public-private partnership in Turkmenistan; a public-private parastatal arrangement in Kazakhstan; and more pluralistic arrangements in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Donor- and state-driven initiatives have helped to vitalize these agricultural extension systems as have the informal linkages with NGOs. In Uzbekistan there is no formal organization that fulfills the functions of an agricultural extension system according to Nazarov (2008), although there are organizations providing elements of extension services despite major gaps in infrastructure, institutional arrangements and availability of extension materials (Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011).  The ICT sector is developing rapidly in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.  While ICT infrastructure is being developed—principally via the Internet and through mobile telephony, nonetheless access to relevant uptodate information remains problematic, especially in the rural areas.


4.         Summary

Donor- and state-driven initiatives have helped to vitalize agricultural extension systems in the sub-region of Central Asia, as have the informal linkages with NGOs.  A public-private partnership exists in Turkmenistan, a public-private parastatal arrangement in Kazakhstan, and more pluralistic arrangements as in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.  Uzbekistan lacks any cohesive agricultural extension services.

The extension advisory services that exist at present tend to be supported by donors and based on limited timeframe projects.  A main trend in delivering extension services by donor funded projects is a ‘pay-per-service’ approach, as noted above in Tajikistan, ranging from being crop or livestock specific, expecting farmers to pay part of the cost of advisory services or to recover these cost indirectly through input supply or micro-credit firms. The resulting effect of  ‘pay per services’ is that only a few progressive farmers with export market access are served and the vast majority of poor farm households, especially those headed by women farmers do not gain access to extension services.

Private companies provide extension services to their commercial clientele and are more interested in establishing expensive advisory units rather than helping poor farmers in the rural areas (Kazbekov and Qureshi 2011). AGROinform, the National Federation of Agricultural Producers is active in Tajikistan. NGO extension-type services are prominent in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, both of which are notable for having developed pluralistic agricultural extension and rural advisory services.

References and Resources

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FAO. 2009. Assessment of information and communication needs of institutions and stakeholders of the national agricultural research and extension system of Kyrgyzstan. Final report. Submitted to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas Regional (ICARDA) office for Central Asia and the Caucasus; Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

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