Poverty in KrygyzstanA small, landlocked state in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan was formerly part of the Soviet Republic with a volatile past and an uncertain future. While the country has had consistent economic growth since gaining independence in 1991, 22.4% of its population still live below the poverty line. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan struggles with internal ethnic conflict, unstable relations with neighboring countries, demographic trends in emigration and geographic weaknesses. This article will explore the many factors contributing to poverty in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the steps the country—and the world—are taking to solve it.

Geographic Disadvantage

Geography is an undeniable factor in determining the wealth and strength of a country. Unfortunately for Kyrgyzstan, geography has played a significant role in ensuring that the state is politically disconnected and economically restrained. Mountains, valleys and basins dominate Kyrgyzstan’s geography. Together, the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain ranges account for roughly 65% of the country’s land. Urban areas are located in the valleys separating the mountains, with agricultural production mainly in the Fergana Valley to the northeast.

Kyrgyzstan’s political borders are the result of Stalinist intervention that purposefully divided ethnic groups in order to create conflict. This political division, combined with mountains separating populations, created an unstable and disconnected region. Kyrgyzstan contains few navigable rivers and is geographically landlocked, forcing it to depend on other countries to transport goods to global markets. Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan’s geographical location is too close to Russia and China to warrant a significant Western investment. Kyrgyzstan can only overcome its geographic weaknesses with favorable trade deals and investment in transportation networks that connect the country to the outside world.

Economic Weakness

With a GDP of $8.5 billion and GDP per capita at $1,323, Kyrgyzstan’s economy lacks the natural resources and industrial diversity to thrive in the global economy. While GDP growth is consistently 4-5% annually, the country’s poverty rate has remained relatively stagnant since 2009. This stagnation is the result of the lack of job creation and wage growth in the country. Corruption and difficult business conditions have kept away investors, while the stronger Russian market exacerbates the trend of emigration.

The economy is dominated by mineral extraction, agriculture and animal domestication—sectors that are unlikely to grow in the coming years. Economic activity is so isolated in Kyrgyzstan that the Kumtor gold mine alone creates approximately 8% of the country’s GDP. However, there is hope for the economy in the tourism and hydroelectric power industries. With proper investment, Kyrgyzstan’s dams and mountain views could be the needed catalyst for economic diversification.

Political Instability and Corruption

Kyrgyzstan’s experience as a former member of the Soviet Republic has created a culture of political instability since the country achieved independence in 1991. Border wars over the Fergana Valley resulted in an atmosphere of suspicion in the region and led to the elections of nationalist strongmen in Kyrgyzstan. This social upheaval continued until 2010 when the nation adopted a parliamentary constitution with significant checks and balances. Even today, Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian state where the president is limited to a single term.

Despite progress in balancing branches of government, the new system was unable to calm the ethnic and regional tensions that had been simmering for decades. Additionally, corruption continues to harm Kyrgyzstan’s courts and business reputation due to the lack of accountability institutions. Businesses routinely pay off judicial officials and civil service personnel in order to earn tax abatement and political favors. The government has responded with reforms intended to improve Kyrgyzstan’s business environment but still lacks the ability to vet judicial appointments. With officials more interested in securing their own fortunes than the country’s well-being, it is clear that the political system perpetuates the cyclical poverty in Kyrgyzstan that plagues the country.

Demographic Trends

Understanding the demographics of a country can be essential in gauging future economic performance and societal progress. Kyrgyzstan has a population of approximately 6.5 million people, of which a majority are Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Tajiks or Russian. While roughly three children are born to every Kyrgyz woman, the population growth rate remains around 1% due to significant emigration. The stronger Russian and Kazak markets, combined with a significant Russian minority ensures that this trend will continue into the next decade, curbing economic growth in the country. The urban and rural divide is also striking.

Only 35.6% of Kyrgyz peoples live in urban areas in comparison to the worldwide average of 55%. This statistic speaks to the weaknesses of a decentralized state lacking infrastructure investment. Additionally, the presence of minority groups from other Central Asian nations is the primary reason for the continuing tension in the region. Kyrgyzstan’s efforts at private industry reform have combatted the emigration trend to some extent. However, addressing Kyrgyzstan’s lack of centralization can only occur through infrastructure investment; a policy that requires significant capital in a mountainous nation.

Solutions

Despite the many dimensions of poverty in Kyrgyzstan, government reforms and international institutions alike have made significant progress in addressing this problem. The country has employed a multi-pronged approach to alleviating poverty in Kyrgyzstan and addressing shortcomings in the economy and government. Some of the policy proposals include reforming legal and regulatory institutions, developing the private sector, improving infrastructure and revamping social services. As many of these proposals are capital-intensive, Kyrgyzstan has turned to international financial institutions for funding. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank support important infrastructure projects in the country, including hydroelectric dams that power much of the region. The Asian Development Bank has been especially beneficial to Kyrgyzstan, with assistance reaching $2.13 billion on 192 projects.

While Kyrgyzstan has made progress in recent years, addressing poverty in Kyrgyzstan depends on whole scale reexaminations of the role of the private sector and courts in civil society. With support from the international community, targeted investment and governmental integrity, it is completely possible for Kyrgyzstan to overcome its many challenges.

Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Kyrgyzstan
Homelessness has been rising steadily in Kyrgyzstan and has remained a prominent issue within the country in recent years. Kyrgyzstan is a small, mountainous country located in central Asia. With a population of approximately 6 million, the country’s economy is in the lower-middle-income bracket with a GDP of $8 billion as of 2018 and has a heavy reliance on agriculture. It was a member of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991 and subsequently lost much of its financial support. Despite this, poverty has been steadily decreasing from 50% during the mid-1990s but remains high at approximately 22%. In addition, an estimated 70% of Kyrgyz citizens require new housing or are homeless.

Reality at a Glance

Approximately 3,500 Kyrgyz citizens living in the capital, Bishkek, are homeless, and the city only has one year-round homeless shelter that houses a maximum of 70 people. On top of this, Kyrgyzstan’s extremely cold weather during winter months makes the lack of safe housing potentially lethal, leading to dozens dying due to overexposure every year.

Many charity workers attribute the rise of homelessness in Kyrgyzstan to alcohol abuse, as well as the rising population, migration into larger cities, unemployment and inability for people to reintegrate into society after prison time. Additionally, the country has built very few new homes. In fact, 85% of houses emerged during the Soviet era, meaning that even those who have access to housing may not have access to basic necessities or require repairs.

Currently, Kyrgyz law dictates that every citizen should receive a plot of land. However, this policy led to corruption, and many are unable to claim their land due to bureaucratic obstacles. Migrants illegally grab land near Bishkek, and the government does not resettle or evict the migrants, which slows down the wait time for receiving an official plot of land. Additionally, many settlements do not have legal recognition or receive essential government services unless they already have a substantial infrastructure in place and have wealthier citizens wanting to move in. As a result, the government benefits from the labor of settlers working to improve previously inhabitable land into a desirable place to live.

A Look Forward

In spite of these difficulties, Kyrgyzstan’s economy has been steadily improving for the past 20 years, and the government has taken steps to try and remedy the homelessness in Kyrgyzstan. The country operates on the Affordable Housing program through the State Mortgage Company established in 2013. The company works to help the people of Kyrgyzstan gain access to houses, and for building new housing. Additionally, the Street Football Federation of Kyrgyzstan has been working with vulnerable children and marginalized adults living in illegal settlements in Kyrgyzstan by running annual tournaments at orphanages, providing humanitarian aid, and giving opportunities while selecting the national Homeless World Cup team.

Ever since 2010, Kyrgyzstan has been steadily stabilizing over the years. The causes of poverty within the country are not unsolvable, and humanitarian aid has greatly improved conditions. Despite the turmoil and economic unrest, there is still hope for the further reduction of poverty and homelessness in Kyrgyzstan.

Elizabeth Lee
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan
In November of 2019, approximately 500 protestors assembled in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to express their dissatisfaction with the corruption in their country. The protestors demanded that law enforcement further investigate a $700 million money-laundering scheme, first discovered by the media. This incident of corruption is nothing new in the country of Kyrgyzstan.

Corruption is a common occurrence in the everyday life of Kyrgyzstan. The issue is especially common among businesses and in the government. Across the country’s judiciary and police forces, along with other sectors, corruption prevails. While many efforts to reduce fraud in Kyrgyzstan have had little effect, there are still routes the country can take to combat the large amounts of corruption within the country.

Judiciary

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s judiciary is extremely troublesome. This means that any anti-corruption legislation is implemented inadequately by the judiciary itself. Because of this, many efforts to reduce corruption in Kyrgyzstan have been largely unsuccessful. Attorneys in Kyrgyzstan’s legal system have often reported that giving bribes to judges is a regular occurrence. Many attorneys make the complaint that no matter how well organized their arguments might be, they know that ultimately it is these bribes that determine the decision of the case. In 2010 there was an attempt to reform the judiciary in order to eliminate corruption within it. However, the attempt failed because the government politicized the reform. Specifically, the president and parliament sought to use it as a way to assign judges that suited their political preferences.

Police

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan also extends to the police force. Unprofessional behavior among police officers is a regular occurrence, and as a result, law enforcement is much less effective in performing its duties. Some evidence has also shown that local law enforcement units answer directly to local government officials rather than serve the citizens. This type of behavior is especially common amongst police forces in Southern Kyrgyzstan. There are also reports that police will arrest people and threaten prosecutions in order to extort money from these “suspects”. Foreigners in Kyrgyzstan are especially at risk. The cars that foreign people drive in Kyrgyzstan have specialized license plates, making it easier for police officers to target them.

Reform

Despite the pervasive amount of corruption in Kyrgyzstan and the ineffective reforms that have passed, various institutions studying the corruption within Kyrgyzstan have made suggestions. One such institution is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. After conducting extensive research on the issue, the OECD concluded that the best way for Kyrgyzstan to proceed is to not rely on the judiciary and prosecution service. The OECD recognizes that the judiciary stands in the way of truly preventing and eliminating corruption in Kyrgyzstan. Another possible solution is that Kyrgyzstan uses specialized law enforcement that deals specifically with corruption cases.

While not the sole cause of poverty, corruption definitely can have an effect on it. This is especially the case when corruption affects businesses, which can negatively impact business owners and thus their employees. The best way for Kyrgyzstan to proceed in preventing corruption is by making some changes in the judiciary as the OECD recommends.

Jacob Lee
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan
With a population of just over six million people, Kyrgyzstan is a small, mostly rural country in Central Asia, nestled between the fertile Fergana valley and some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Today, much of Kyrgyzstan’s population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities. However, with a rise in international support, Kyrgyzstan is making hopeful strides towards better health and sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kyrgyzstan. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan

  1. Geographic Issues: Dotted with hundreds of mountainous peaks, Kyrgyzstan’s geography makes it one of the most difficult countries to navigate in the world. With 65% of the population living in rural areas and steep terrain making travel between remote communities difficult, providing comprehensive access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan has been a persistent challenge.
  2. Limited Sanitation Facilities: Kyrgyzstan has a large number of rivers running throughout the country, many originating from alpine glaciers. These include many tributaries of the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia’s longest rivers. Despite the presence of water resources, Kyrgyzstan lacks facilities that allow for national access to water and ensure water quality. As a result, many people in rural areas use irrigation water for sanitation and household purposes.
  3. Sanitation in Schools: According to UNICEF, more than 36% of schools in Kyrgyzstan have no water supply and many have not been renovated since the Soviet era. This lack of adequate sanitation facilities, along with an absence of menstrual hygiene supplies, has resulted in many female students dropping out of school.
  4. Waterborne Diseases: An estimated 88% of cases of infectious diseases in Kyrgyzstan are due to poor water quality. With limited wastewater treatment and a lack of supervision over water quality, waterborne diseases are highly prevalent in Kyrgyzstan. As of 2017, rules for water quality at supply facilities were only recommended and not actively enforced.
  5. Aging Water Facilities and Systems: A significant issue facing sanitation facilities in Kyrgyzstan is the deteriorating conditions of existing water systems. According to the WHO, 40% of water pipes are out of operation because they exceeded their terms of use. Now, more than 4,000 standpipes remain out of service. Although the Kyrgyz Department for Development of Water Supply and Sanitation bears the responsibility of repairing these pipes, the department has not yet implemented a plan.
  6. Urban and Rural Disparities: Access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan is heavily dependent on economic conditions and location. In urban areas, wastewater management, water supply and water quality are all higher quality than in rural regions. According to the U.N., 42% of the capital has access to piped sewage, compared to only 3% of the predominantly rural Batken region.
  7. World Bank Efforts: Founded in 2016 by the World Bank, the Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Development Project has invested more than $36 million in providing water to rural communities in Kyrgyzstan. The project has already provided water access to more than 250 remote villages and is expected to benefit 200,000 people.
  8. WASH: Partnering with the Kyrgyz government, UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program has supported the construction of sanitation facilities in schools and hospitals. The program also involves awareness campaigns to educate the public on proper hygiene practices. According to UNICEF, WASH has been implemented in more than 100 schools in Kyrgyzstan. From 2006 to 2014, the proportion of the population using appropriately treated water increased from 35% to more than 77%.
  9. Asian Development Bank Funding: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has made significant contributions toward addressing sanitation in the rural Naryn region. These contributions include a $27.4 million financial package that aims to provide water to 64,000 people in the province. ADB’s program plans to increase access to safe water to 90% and sanitation facilities to 70% by the year 2026. 
  10. Improved Water Facilities: Funded by the government of Finland and created by U.N. Women, the Livelihoods through Participation and Equal Access Program collaborates with local governments, schools, and water associations to establish improved water facilities across the country. By 2018, the program had increased access to irrigation water for over 20,000 people in rural Kyrgyzstan. It had also helped conduct advocacy campaigns to 30,000 people on the efficient use of natural resources.

While sanitation in Kyrgyzstan remains one of the country’s most pressing issues, it is clear that progress is being made. With continued support, Kyrgyzstan may soon overcome one of its most critical issues, enabling people across the nation to transform their lives for the better.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

In the past few years, Kyrgyzstan youth have stepped up to address poverty reduction and promote the well-being of women and children in Kyrgyzstan. The U.N. has worked with Kyrgyzstan youth representatives to promote the Sustainable Development Goals and has partnered with youth who are passionate about using IT solutions to fight domestic violence. In addition, youth are raising awareness about human trafficking and investing in their own wellbeing in conjunction with local governments.

Youth Promoting SDGs

Between 2019 and 2020, the U.N. began an initiative allowing Kyrgyzstan youth to step up and spread awareness amongst their generation about implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs include things like “no poverty” and “zero hunger.” Through this program, 34 Kyrgyzstan youth have partnered with U.N. campaigns to advance the SDGs and show others what steps can be taken to achieve them. Each SDG is assigned to two youth representatives. Participants are passionate about the chosen SDG, as it often relates to the representative’s area of study in school or experiences growing up.

As Aibek Asanov, a youth representative for Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6) said, “I believe that youth can change the future. This is why I became the SDG Delegate.”

Youth Against Human Trafficking

Kyrgyzstan youth have also taken a stand against human trafficking. Through Kyrgyzstan’s 2017-2020 State Program against Trafficking in Persons, 80 youth ambassadors have represented 30 youth groups across Kyrgyzstan. These youth ambassadors work with local government and media groups, and gather for a yearly conference to discuss the goals and developments of the program. The program focuses on eliminating child marriage and forced marriage. It also provides access to resources for victims of human trafficking. In 2018, the program had positively influenced more than 600,000 people and utilized the work of 5,000 youth activists.

Youth Spearhead IT Campaign to Fight Domestic Violence

In 2020, the UNDP partnered with youth coders and designers to develop IT solutions that fight domestic violence against women and children. These solutions are especially needed for those trapped in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In cooperation with the Spotlight Initiative, UNDP organized a two-day hackathon that addressed solutions in 4 areas:

  • Violence against women
  • Violence against children
  • Migrant children in difficult situations
  • Those with disabilities in difficult situations

Within two days, over 50 developers came up with 18 IT solutions to aid people in these four areas. Of these projects, the three winners created very different but useful solutions. One addressed recognizing domestic violence and connecting people to the necessary resources. Another focused on victims’ access to online psychologists. The third winner used fairy tales to track children’s mental health.

Youth Partnership with Local Governance

Since 2017, UNICEF has encouraged Kyrgyzstan youth to take initiative in advancing their own wellbeing by partnering with local governments. So far, the Youth and Child Friendly Local Governance (YCHFLG) program has reached 24 rural and 18 urban precincts to place importance on services for young people and ensure that local governments prioritize the needs of Kyrgyzstan youth. The program encourages the involvement of youth in decision-making and politics. Youth can share their insight and preferences, which are then taken into account by local governments when plans are put into place.

In just a few years, Kyrgyzstan youth have taken initiative. They have impacted poverty reduction by addressing the SDGs, raising awareness about human trafficking, using creativity and innovation to end domestic violence and becoming involved in the political process. Passionate, poverty-aware youth will continue to be instrumental to future progress in Kyrgyzstan.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia

Healthcare Improvements in KyrgyzstanHealthcare is an important concern for the government of Kyrgyzstan and has been for many years. Kyrgyzstan has introduced multiple reforms of its healthcare system since 1996. As of 2019, about eight percent of the country’s GDP has been spent on the healthcare system. Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to improve their healthcare manifest in several ways. For example, life expectancy rose from 66.5 years in 1996 to 71.0 years in 2016. In order to fully appreciate the reforms, aid and healthcare improvements in Kyrgyzstan, it is important to understand the state of the country’s healthcare system prior to reforms and improvements.

Healthcare in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan was a Soviet Republic during the Cold War. The country had free and universal healthcare financed by the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Health. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, healthcare within the country of Kyrgyzstan began to decline. The healthcare system’s decline in Kyrgyzstan’s during this period was partly due to the lack of medical necessities. Because of their crumbling healthcare system, Kyrgyzstan needed reforms. Long after their independence from the Soviet Union, they have made these reforms.

The government has recently launched two initiatives to promote healthcare improvements. The first is the Primary Health Care Quality Improvement Program. The purpose of this program is threefold. First, to improve the quality of healthcare services. Secondly, to increase access to and quality of healthcare services. Finally, to establish better governance over the healthcare system to ensure the program is successful. The program is still in its early stages. It was approved in 2019 and will last until 2024.

Kyrgyzstan has ensured better healthcare delivery to its people by partnering with USAID to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) from the country; each year, the country faces roughly 8,000 cases of TB. Of those roughly 8,000 cases, about 1,300 are drug-resistant TB which is much more difficult to treat.

In response, Kyrgyzstan makes use of the USAID Cure Tuberculosis project. The project provides $18.5 million to the country of Kyrgyzstan in order for medical professionals to provide the necessary care for people who have the drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

With these two programs active, the government hopes to bring about more healthcare improvements in Kyrgyzstan for people in general and for those specifically suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis.

– Jacob Lee
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia with a population of 6.4 million. Since its independence from Russia in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has had unstable political conditions, leading to poor health conditions. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kyrgyzstan

  1. The average life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan is 71 years. For men, life expectancy is around 68 years, while women generally live 75 years. This represents a significant increase over the last 10 years, rising from an average of 67.7 years in 2010. However, the life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan still remains below the average in Asia, which is 79 years. It also falls behind other Central Asian countries, as the average life expectancy in Central Asia is 70 years for men and 76 years for women.
  2. The mortality rate for children under 5 in Kyrgyzstan is 20 per 1,000 live births. Comparatively, the average mortality rate for children under 5 in developing countries in Europe and Central Asia is 11 per 1,000 live births. Still, Kyrgyzstan has made much progress on reducing the mortality rate for young children over the past 20 years; in 1990, the mortality rate for children under 5 was 65 per 1,000 live births.
  3. Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Kyrgyzstan. The rate of ischemic heart disease in Kyrgyzstan is significantly higher than the rates in other low-and-middle-income countries. In fact, 4,628.7 per 100,000 deaths in Kyrgyzstan are caused by ischemic heart disease, while the average rate for other low-and-middle-income countries is 3,036.7 per 100,000 deaths. The second most common cause of death in Kyrgyzstan is stroke.
  4. Kyrgyzstan’s sanitation and drinking water services have a significant impact on the health of its population. Around 93 percent of the population has access to basic sanitation services and piped water services reach 58 percent of the nation. Additionally, the practice of open defecation is not found in the country, contributing to more sanitary conditions.
  5. As of 2015, the maternal mortality rate in Kyrgyzstan is 76 per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality has remained high in the nation for the past two decades, barely decreasing from 1990 when the maternal mortality rate was 80 per 100,000 live births. This is in spite of the fact that 99 percent of all births in Kyrgyzstan are attended by a skilled professional.
  6. In Kyrgyzstan, there are approximately 1.9 doctors and 6.4 nurses per 1,000 people, according to World Bank data from 2014. This is lower than the average for low-and-middle-income countries in Europe and Central Asia, which is approximately three physicians per 1,000 people. Kyrgyzstan has made improvements, however, as the rate was approximately 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people in 2008.
  7. Kyrgyzstan has made reforms to its health care system three times since 2001, with the goal of improving the availability and quality of medical services. A mandatory health insurance fund has been in place since the 1990s and on average people in Kyrgyzstan pay 39 percent of the total cost of their health services. However, a lack of pharmacy price regulation and the devaluation of the national currency led to a 20 percent increase in co-payments for reimbursed medicine in outpatient care increased between 2013 and 2015, driving up out-of-pocket costs.
  8. Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Health and Mandatory Health Insurance Fund will implement a new Primary Health Care Quality Improvement Program between 2019 and 2024. This program is largely funded by the World Bank, which is contributing nearly $20 million. Alongside this program is the country’s new health strategy for 2019-2030: “Healthy Person – Prosperous Country.” The government of Kyrgyzstan recognizes that strengthening the primary health care system is essential to improving lives, particularly for the impoverished.
  9. The impoverished — which account for 25.6 percent of the population — and those living remotely in the mountains are most likely to experience malnutrition in Kyrgyzstan. UNICEF estimates that 22 percent of all child deaths occur due to malnutrition and almost 18 percent of all Kyrgyz children are malnourished. Malnutrition causes stunting, low birth weight and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can have a life-long effect on one’s health and wellbeing.
  10. Education is also an important factor contributing to health and life expectancy. In Kyrgyzstan, education is mandatory for nine years between the ages of 7 and 15. UNICEF notes that many children drop out after grade nine when this mandatory education ends, as only 59 percent for boys and 56 percent for girls attend upper secondary school. Quality of education is another challenge for the nation, with more than 50 percent of children not meeting the basic level of achievement in reading, math and science.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan shed light on health and living conditions in the nation. With new health initiatives being undertaken in the country, there is hope that life expectancy rates will continue to improve.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: UNICEF

Hydroelectric Power in Kyrgyzstan
The increasing demand for centralized electrical power has put growing pressure on the government to modernize Kyrgyzstan’s hydroelectric capacity. 1“’s government has sanctioned the expansion of its energy infrastructure to mitigate extreme poverty and improve access to fundamental necessities in rural communities. As a focal point of its export economy, hydroelectric power modules supply 76 percent of its electricity. With lowering water inflow and deteriorating infrastructure, Kyrgyzstan faces a unique problem in mitigating and expanding its hydroelectric import/export industry while balancing the rampant poverty and income inequality among rural and urban communities. The surrounding Kyrgyzstan economy relies mostly on agricultural cultivations and the cotton export industry. With the increased development of modules of hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan, the controlled water supply offers the potential for massive growth in the agricultural industry. As a renewable energy source, hydroelectric energy provides the potential to control the rate at which the water flows and of the amount used, which is crucial to energy production.

Socioeconomic Implications

Traditional agricultural methods that rural communities commonly practice create the potential for extensive economic growth through the implementation of an updated hydroelectric system. Through a controlled system, the irrigation of various crops is more efficient with a renewable energy source that has less pollution. With substantial economic implications, hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan encourages more commercial enterprises to migrate to agrarian areas where people cannot access basic public services like running water and education as easily.

With 32 percent under the poverty line, the need for a centralized hydroelectrical grid can have vast socioeconomic implications, with an improved water supply system and improved access to basic health necessities. With Kyrgyzstan’s main hydroelectric infrastructure outdated and in need of a sufficient upgrade the inconsistency attached to this older hydroelectric module creates insecurity in basic necessities. With access to basic social programs tentative on ideal weather conditions in urban communities, the expansion of clean renewable energy sources can potentially create an influx of economic prosperity and improve energy efficiency throughout the country.

A focused effort toward improving consistent energy output will allow the quality of life to improve and give the impoverished a promising start toward economic mobility with increasing hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan. Reducing toxic chemicals put into the air from traditional cooking/heating methods in rural communities can allow room for a more comprehensive hydropower infrastructure. Rural communities on average tend to use more fossil fuels with more than 60 percent using those perishables due to inconsistencies within hydroelectric distribution and no updated grid system that would make those other methods obsolete.

Government Legislation

Since its independence, Kyrgyzstan established a network of standard practice in energy distribution with a comprehensive legislative agenda. People are underutilizing the potential for an increased hydroelectric presence as a larger kinetic energy source with geographically crucial bodies of water producing 5-8 billion kW·h per year and the country only using 3 percent. A more consistent hydroelectric grid is necessary for Kyrgyzstan’s economy to boost its agricultural sector. The government introduced the National Energy Program that assists in renovating abandoned hydropower plants and initiates constructing new ones. Additionally, government sectors have committed to actively work on the cultivation of Kyrgyzstan’s massive untapped energy sector. Along with a growing private sector and updated technology to improve the essential food and health infrastructures hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan will increase the capacity of its economy.

Adam Townsend
Photo: Flickr

 agricultural sector

Kyrgyzstan is a mostly mountainous country situated between Kazakhstan and China. Its population is mostly Kyrgyz, with an Uzbek minority. Most of the population lives in the flatland regions, with only sparse settlements in the mountains themselves. The country also ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world, with numerous contributing factors to its low GDP, including the agriculture sector in Kyrgyzstan. Since leaving the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has lacked a reliable source of resources and funds beyond their own borders; and despite trade, they struggle economically with exports.

Compounding poverty, the agricultural sector of Kyrgyzstan also remains underdeveloped despite the nation’s progress. Despite accounting for 40 percent of the country’s labor force, agricultural workers experience widespread poverty and food shortages, especially those living in rural areas. The lack of progress and modernization in this area is coupled with a combination of economic weakness and lack of oversight from a shifting government to create a stagnant environment. However, the aid programs discussed below are boosting the agricultural sector.

Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan is mostly a local affair. Families grow food for themselves in what is called “sustenance farming.” Large-scale commercial farming is still small compared to similar operations in other countries. Despite this, several foreign aid programs have been implemented to improve the agricultural sector.

Aid Programs – IFAD

IFAD is an organization dedicated to helping rural communities in developing nations. Through low-interest loans and investments in helping poor households and communities, they help spur growth in these sectors and countries. In Kyrgyzstan, they focus specifically on improving livestock productivity and improving livestock farmers’ access to better markets.

The funded programs provide training in techniques for rural farmers while guiding them to better markets. These programs teach better business practices, which leads to greater earning potentials for families. Finally, natural disaster insurance is also provided for these same households and communities, protecting families against extreme weather.

USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program

One of two major agricultural endeavors in Kyrgyzstan, the Farmer-to-Farmer project was a program implemented over five years, finishing in 2018. Similar to IFAD, the program focused on families and communities who relied on small farms and agribusinesses for income. This included providing agricultural training to improve yield as well as business training to improve market reliability and profit. Without proper training, small farming businesses often yield small quantities of product not enough to constitute “food security.”
By the time the program was complete, 21 agricultural education assignments were completed. These included the education of local businesses – leading to newly established guidelines and quality standards for food – as well as students and graduate students of agriculture. The program reached a total of 4,320 recipients, with 3672 successfully trained.

Agro Horizon

The other major agricultural endeavor of USAID in Kyrgyzstan, Agro Horizon, is still ongoing. Partnering with several corporations, Agro Horizon has provided over $30 million dollars in aid. The focus has been on the commercialization and industrialization of Kyrgyzstan’s agriculture in an effort to make it more profitable.
The program’s investments have taken several forms, both in modernizing production and processing methods, as well as grants and training opportunities for over 100,000 households. Thanks to a partnership with a local agricultural producer, the first commercial-scale production of safflower seed was launched. Similarly, the first Kyrgyz modern slaughterhouse following international standards was established. The program has already helped establish 1,200 jobs providing more stable income than previous.

There are still many opportunities to improve agriculture in Kyrgyzstan. Areas of untapped potential and continued aid stand to make agriculture in the country not just sustainable, but profitable. So long as aid for the agricultural sector in Kyrgyzstan continues, Kyrgyztan’s agriculture sector might be able to pull itself up from its current state.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts Living Conditions in Kyrgyzstan
Windswept valleys and snowy mountains characterize the landscape of Kyrgyzstan. Yurts, round tents covered with skins or felt, are a common sight in rural areas. This represents a legacy from nomadic ancestors. Legally speaking, the nation itself is a young one, having officially come into existence in 1990. However, the nation’s cultural roots are far deeper than that.

Descending from nomadic forbearers, animal husbandry is heavily practiced in rural areas. Felt making and carpet weaving are still common household skills. In the 20th century, the country found itself as a part of USSR, remaining a member state for decades. Soviet culture would go on to shape national language, infrastructure and politics. The top 10 facts about living conditions in Kyrgyzstan represented in the text below will provide a better insight into the struggles and progress of a country that is both very young and very old at the same time. 

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Kyrgyzstan

  1. The first peaceful transfer of presidential power happened in 2017. On Nov. 24, 2017, Sooronbai Jeenbekov was inaugurated as president. It was the first normal presidential transfer since the writing of the constitution since each of the previous regimes was overthrown by a people revolt, in 2005 and in 2010 respectively.
  2. Public schools have high attendance rates. Under the national constitution, basic education (until ninth grade) is guaranteed and mandatory. Secondary education (beyond ninth grade), is also guaranteed to anyone who wants it. In recent years, great progress has been made in youth education. From 2010 to 2014, the number of non-attending youth shrunk from 25,000 to 8,000.
  3. As of 2015, approximately 32 percent of Kyrgyzstani’s live below the international poverty line. More than 67 percent of all poor live in rural communities, where transportation costs represent a significant part of the total cost of basic goods and services.
  4. Women’s workforce participation is helping to reduce poverty. To alleviate poverty the Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment Program (sponsored by the U.N.) operates in 73 villages across the country. This service enables rural women to open their own businesses, either utilizing their traditional skills (felt making, farming and baking) or by training them in new areas such as cell-phone repair.
  5. Kyrgyzstan has the highest rate of bridal kidnap in the world. U.N. cited estimates that suggest that 35-45 percent of all marriages involve some form of abduction. Roughly 43 girls are taken every day. While data is difficult to collect as the crimes are often hidden, high motherhood rates and reports of under-age marriage signal that this issue is far from resolved.
  6. A local nongovernmental organization is helping young women defend themselves. Started in 2016, the National Federation of Female Communities (NFFCK) trains girls to protect themselves against threats and violence. During the past two years, this organization has helped save 41 girls from forced marriage, given practical support to 482 girls, provided 1,682 consultations on child marriage and educated more than 12,000 young women.
  7. Water infrastructure is inadequate and falling into disrepair. The Soviet government built the entirety of Kyrgyzstan’s water infrastructure between 40 and 50 years ago. Almost half of the water is lost, spilling through the decrepit pipes, leaving distribution efficiency at 55 percent. Low coverage is a national problem that is more acute in urban areas, leaving cities with less than 40 percent of the amount they need.
  8. The village of An-Oston now has its water system reestablished with the help of the organization called Women Engage for A Common Future Construction (WECF). Before the house plumbing connections were rebuilt in 2015, villagers had to carry drinking water in pots from the local lake. Due to the WECF’s work, all 225 homes in the village have plumbing reestablished and have 24-hour access to potable water.  
  9. Malnutrition, not starvation, is the biggest food-related problem. A very small part of the country, 1.2 percent, struggles to eat the minimum number of calories per day. However, malnutrition and consequential stunted growth are dangerously common. Thirteen percent of children under the age of 5 are believed to have stunted growth. In Jalal-Abad (the most heavily affected area), that rate is as high as 21.3 percent.  
  10. The World Food Programme helps feed thousands of children in schools. As of 2017, due to the World Food Programme’s efforts with the government, 260 schools have been able to implement a sustainable meal plan for their students. Over 60,000 children under the age of 5 were provided school meals and an additional 213,000 children (aged between 5 and 18) were able to eat nutritious meals because of this program.

Many of these top 10 facts about living conditions in Kyrgyzstan demonstrate that progress is being made despite the terrible problems the Kyrgyzstani people face. There are many organizations and people that take steps toward bringing safety, stability and prosperity to their neighbors every day. Although the road ahead of the country will be a difficult one, all journeys begin with a single step.

– John Glade  
Photo: Flickr