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

St. Petersburg
On April 3, 2017, 14 people died and 64 were injured when an explosive device detonated in the St. Petersburg metro. The perpetrator, Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, who also died in the explosion, came to St. Petersburg in 2011 from Osh, Kyrgyzstan to work as a car mechanic. Upon reviewing Dzhalilov’s online record and talking with witnesses, Russia’s Federal Security Services found links to Islamist websites on his social media, as well as evidence that he had become withdrawn and quiet two months before his suicide bombing.

The St. Petersburg attack brought Russia’s approach to counter-extremism to the spotlight. More than 2,000 Russians have gone off to fight for ISIS, making Russia the largest contributor of ISIS fighters. While some of these fighters harbor resentments dating back to ethnic wars in the 1990s, others saw ISIS as an opportunity to escape from poor economic opportunities and blatant discrimination at home.

History of Chaos

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Chechnya, a majority Muslim, southern region of Russia, descended into chaos. Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia, pushed for a decentralization of government but would not go as far as to legitimize Chechen separatists’ independence movement. Interethnic conflict engulfed the Caucasus region, with hundreds of thousands of Ingush people and Chechens fleeing from the destruction of their communities. This legacy of insurgency and violence is one of the main causes of radicalization in Russia, especially in the Northern Caucasus, which remains Russia’s most radicalized region even today.

Radical Islamists tend to be concentrated in cities with high concentrations of migrant workers, particularly in the oil-producing cities of Tyumen and Khanty-Mansiysk. In fact, close to 200,000 Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis live in West Siberia.

Disenfranchisement

Labor migrants from Central Asia face xenophobia after arriving in Russia. In August 2016, one poll administered by the Levada Center found that 52 percent of Russians believe in a “Russia for ethnic Russians.” The same poll found that 39 percent of Russians feel that immigrants destroy Russian culture. Feeling out-of-place as a minority, these migrants seek community and protection in local mosques, breeding grounds for recruitment into radical Islamic groups. In fact, mosques are the main sites of recruitment, according to the Search for Common Good Organization.

Law enforcement and security agencies alienate Muslims by promulgating propaganda that belittles their beliefs. A Wilson Center report details how law enforcement officials in Russia plant drugs while searching the homes of Muslims, only to arrest and jail them later. Intimidated by state pressure, these Muslims seek recluse in the ranks of ISIS.

Social Media

In order to target and entice potential recruits, terrorist groups use social media and online forums. VKontakte, a popular Russian social media site, was the go-to for ISIS supporters and recruiters until the company began shutting down content that promoted the terrorist group in September 2014. To work around these restrictions, ISIS now uses its own Furat Media to disseminate propaganda.

Russia has implemented stringent counter-extremism laws, to the point that some critics worry about an invasion of piracy. A 2014 Extremism Law gave authorities the power to ban websites and social media accounts without a court order. In the span of 11 months, between February and December 2015, Russia banned 512 websites. Moreover, the 2016 Yarovaya Law forces digital providers to store clients’ data for a minimum of six months and make these records available to the Federal Security Services.

Financial Woes

Extremist groups recruit financially vulnerable migrants with promises of stable jobs and a network of support. More than 28 percent of interviewees in a survey by the Search for Common Ground organization said that the prospect of stable jobs and salaries attracted them to ISIS recruiters. This issue is compounded for undocumented migrants in Russia, who are much more vulnerable financially.

While the Russian government’s counter-extremism laws are harsh, its official rhetoric against its Muslim population, 11.7 percent according to the Pew Research Center, has the unintended consequence of promoting radicalization.

The time is now for Russia to consider more than just its censorship of extremist content. The country must, first and foremost, eradicate the root causes of radicalization, addressing state-sponsored discrimination, financial insecurity and minority rights.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

47. Credit Access in the Kyrgyz Republic
Kyrgyzstan, though still scarred by a violent government coup d’etat in 2010, has seen robust economic growth thanks to international investment in its agribusiness and energy production industries. National GDP has grown at an average of 4 percent annually since 2015. However, the landlocked Central Asian country still struggles with a pronounced lack of domestic consumption expenditure. Improving low levels of credit access in Kyrgyzstan can boost consumer spending and confidence, which is paramount to ensuring a viable financial future for its citizens.

The Economic Importance of Credit

Credit is integral to the maintenance and growth of a market economy. Individuals and private organizations borrow money to buy goods and services in the market, which raises production and stimulates the consumer economy. Once credit debt and loans are paid back, the cycle continues again and again. It logically follows that if more consumers have access to a reliable credit system that provides loans, the economy expands and poverty is reduced.

This reasoning backs the approach that international multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the U.N. employ in their efforts to combat poverty. In Kyrgyzstan, agriculture is by far the largest sector of the economy, employing about 40 percent of the working population and comprising nearly 20 percent of the country’s GDP. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations apprised the industry in 2006 and found that approximately 900,000 households contributed half of the agricultural output on 5 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s arable land. In addition, roughly 250,000 private farms employed half of the agricultural labor population while also contributing 40 percent of total output.

Different Types of Credit Access

Although households and private farms are the two largest employers and producers of agricultural output, they cannot rely on the same systems of finance due to their fundamentally different roles in the economy. The categories of credit access in Kyrgyzstan differentiate based on the debtor. As household farms are usually individually operated, micro-financing institutions (MFIs) and non-governmental organizations more aptly serve their personal needs; these small-scale family farms generally have neither the land nor the assets to pay off the sizeable loans. On the other hand, commercial banking suits the privatized farm industry, which can afford to invest in equipment and expansion while employing up to several hundred laborers.

Recognizing this dichotomy, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested in multiple projects across different financial sectors. Its Investment Climate Advisory Services Project, initiated in 2009, works to remove barriers to entry in the market that would otherwise dissuade private businesses from expanding. From 2009 to 2012, the IFC also invested $26 million into Kompanion Financial Group, FINCA Kyrgyzstan and UniCredit Kyrgyzstan, all of which provide microfinance services to individuals and small businesses.

Potential Dangers of Expanding Credit

With the relaxation of government regulation and growth in spending, however, comes the danger of a potentially cataclysmic credit bubble. Eurasianet reported in 2012 that only 100 of the near 450 MFI’s in Kyrgyzstan actively engaged with clients; the barriers to starting an MFI are virtually nonexistent. Interested investors need slightly more than $2,000 USD to found their own MFI, and most have no education or background in finance. This lack of barriers, coupled with borrowers that often do not understand the loaning process, can result in overspending of nonexistent money and consequent high debt, which harms those who borrowed money to escape poverty in the first place.

The failure to properly rear a financial market and the motive of profit before anything else promoted in local populations spells disaster for both loaners and borrowers. Financial education of the local population and proper regulatory oversight is crucial for efforts to expand credit access in Kyrgyzstan to succeed. The implementation of finance in an industry as important to Kyrgyzstan as agribusiness bears the grave possibility of worsening the predicaments of those it was designed to help. However, if managed correctly, it also holds a much greater potential to lift Kyrgyzstan’s citizens out of poverty. 

Alex Qi

Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, once part of the Soviet bloc, transformed from a one-party communist state into a republican democracy in 1991. Despite its reforms, though, the country is beset by both extreme poverty and government incompetence. With a significant portion of the population destitute, a thriving illegal narcotics market and ethnic tensions between native Kyrgyz and migrant Uzbeks, American investment in its government and people would see substantive U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan in terms of security.

State of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s location in geographically-isolated Central Asia and its lack of natural energy resources, such as oil and gas, prevent it from emulating the industrial rise of neighboring economic goliaths, Russia and China.

The inherent difficulty of encouraging economic growth, coupled with institutional problems and social disorder, has resulted in high poverty rates in Kyrgyzstan. As of 2010, more than 40 percent of Kyrgyzstan residents live below the poverty line. High rates of homelessness and unemployment have turned many to narcotics.

Factors Leading to Revolution

Trafficking drugs across a long, unguarded border with other Central Asian countries linked to Afghanistan is a profitable enterprise, making it lucrative to those who do not have sustainable incomes. The second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, Osh, is often referred to as the “drug capital” due to the volume of illegal narcotics that passes through the city near Kyrgyzstan’s southern border.

In 2012, authorities seized at least six tons of various substances ranging from cannabis to heroin. The rampant nature of the drug problem, and the government’s inability to resolve it, was one factor that led to revolution.

In June of 2010, more than 350 people were killed in southern Kyrgyzstan during the Second Kyrgyz Revolution over a variety of issues —  rape, wealth inequality between rural Kyrgyzstan migrants and urban Uzbeks and gang turf wars over the aforementioned drugs were a few. About 66 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population is Kyrgyz, with some 14 percent identifying as Uzbeks. The violence between the two ethnic groups in the larger frame of regime change displaced hundreds of thousands of citizens and left the region in turmoil.

Ethnic Tension and Cultural Conflict

Poverty is a breeding ground for radicalism. Its perpetuation is often a vicious cycle, wherein poverty causes political instability, resulting in civil wars and terrorism at home and abroad. These conflicts then wipe out much-needed crops and necessary social institutions like hospitals and schools. In Kyrgyzstan’s case, ethnic tension resulted from lopsided poverty and unaffordable utility prices.

It would be a mistake to assume, however, that the conflict between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz is limited to only Kyrgyzstan or Central Asia. In April 2017, an Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan killed 14 in St. Petersburg, Russia by rail attack. In October 2017, an Uzbek immigrant killed eight in New York by driving a truck through pedestrians. More than 1,500 Uzbeks have joined the Islamic State, ostracized by many of the countries — especially Kyrgyzstan — they once lived in.

This global violence, spawned in part by the ineptitude of a corrupt and autocratic government in preventing the continuance of radicalization, is not in the interest of either the Kyrgyzstan people or the United States. Just as Kyrgyzstan benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan.

In the decades since the Soviet Union’s dissolution, subsequent American administrations have supplied aid intended mostly for the Kyrgyz Republic’s agricultural economy and on-the-ground humanitarian efforts. But it can do more — more for its government and more for its people.

U.S. Benefits From Foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan

Earmarking additional funds could support anti-corruption initiatives to dampen the prevalence of drug transport and abuse among the population. Increased investment in Kyrgyzstan’s energy sector could also diminish dependence on foreign energy and stabilize utility prices. A reduction in poverty and boost in living standards would increase income equality and alleviate some of the tension between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz that currently plagues the country, and by extension of terrorist activity, the world.

As terrorism is such a buzzword in American politics today, preventing it would surely be high on most elected officials’ to-do lists. Helping the Kyrgyz Republic overcome its multidimensional poverty — which can prevent terrorist activity and save lives both in the United States and abroad — would increase national security at a fraction of the cost of not doing so.

To reiterate: the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan. The current administration’s plan to drastically cut its designated aid funds would render most, if not all, of these benefits void.

– Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Kyrgyz Republic Promotes Development
The Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan, also known as Kyrgyz Republic, is a landlocked and a largely mountainous country with a population of about six million. Humanitarian aid to Kyrgyz Republic has helped the country’s economy recover from the 2009 financial crisis and the 2010 inter-ethnic clashes.

U.S. and Kyrgyz Republic

In 2010, the United States announced a $32 million assistance plan for humanitarian relief, reconstruction and community stabilization efforts in the violence-plagued regions of both Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyz Republic is one of the five republics of Central Asia and is very prone to natural disasters such as landslides, floods, earthquakes, droughts and melting glaciers. These natural disasters disrupt the normal flow of life and cause substantial damage to developmental projects.

European Commission

The European Commission (EC) has assisted people in the aftermath of these natural disasters via various projects. These efforts include improving food security in the wake of the harsh winter climate and providing small-scale support after floods, avalanches and earthquakes.

The EC also manages a disaster risk reduction program called DIPECHO which has funded more than 110 projects at the cost of €47 million (about $58 million dollars). DIPECHO’s tenth action plan for Central Asia (2017-2018) has encouraged EC’s partners to replicate previous successful community-based disaster risk reduction models to foster more local and national self-sufficiency and development.

Project HOPE

In 2017, aid organization Project HOPE donated $243,000 to medical facilities and non-government organizations. This humanitarian aid to Kyrgyz Republic was used to provide free health services and medical supplies to over 35,000 people. Project HOPE has been active in the Kyrgyz Republic since 2006.

The U.S. State Department noted in 2010 that the U.S. humanitarian aid to the Kyrgyz Republic has improved the country’s economic growth, promoted democratic reform by strengthening the civil society and helped the government combat international threats. Basic reforms in education, agriculture, energy and other ongoing priorities have also been instituted.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has helped the Kyrgyz Republic maintain a parliamentary democratic system even as the country oscillated between two bouts of authoritarianism. Democratic reforms are especially important as Kyrgyz Republic is the only freely elected parliamentary democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia.

USAID works with the regional USAID Mission to Central Asia to propel the New Silk Road initiative which is aimed to strengthen the economic and cultural connections of South and Central Asian people which, in turn, helps propel the stability and prosperity of the region.

Diversification and Humanitarian Aid to Kyrgyz Republic

The World Bank has said that the Kyrgyz Republic needs to diversify its economic activities by increased private sector development and occupational training, especially to the young. Humanitarian aid to Kyrgyz Republic can thus help the government improve its governance at both local and national levels and promote the country’s economic and social development.

– Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Google

Sustainable Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan lies in central Asia with much of its land consisting of rugged and mountainous terrain. The country faces harsh winters and hot, arid summers because of its height above sea level that ranges anywhere from 1,000 meters to 3,000 meters. Kyrgyzstan’s land and climate mean there are very few arable locations suitable for growing and sustaining seasonal crops.

With much of their communities being rural, Kyrgyzstan is reliant on their agricultural products as a source of sustenance and income with around 40 percent of laborers focused in agriculture.
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Crops

A variety of crops grown in Kyrgyzstan are best-suited for the land and climate, including wheat, barley, maize, potatoes, vegetables and fruits, while sugar beets, cotton and tobacco are grown for export.

Kyrgyz focus more on keeping pastures and maintaining herds of livestock for food because of the small amount of land for farming. Livestock mainly consists of sheep, goats and yak, but some regions can support cattle, pigs and chickens.
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Agricultural Practices

Both the agricultural practices of the Kyrgyz and the increasing amount of agricultural production needed for the population make sustainable agriculture in Kyrgyzstan a growing and serious issue.

Due to how rural much of the country is, farmers tend to only have access to the most basic of tools, and often lack the knowledge of proper farming methods, meaning what little land there is to be farmed is being dramatically degraded. The herding of livestock has had a similar effect on the land in the form of desertification in overused pastures.
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Nutritional Deficiencies

The lack of farmable and healthy pasture land is not the only issue regarding sustainable agriculture in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz can only grow hearty, starchy crops to survive the harsh conditions of the country, and as a result, many are affected by nutritional deficiencies; children can have stunted growth because of a lack of essential vitamins and minerals found in fairer weather crops.

Nutritional deficiencies can also be contributed to rural Kyrgyz simply not being able to afford food — many have low salaries compared to the cost of food from Kyrgyzstan and imports to the country.
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Foreign Aid

Kyrgyzstan often depends on foreign aid to provide what it cannot due to poverty and the agricultural issues the nation faces. Although this aid does fund some food relief programs to provide for Kyrgyz who need it the most, much of the projects and programs focus on the agriculture itself.

USAID programs in the country tend to focus on both making agricultural practices more sustainable, such as how the land is managed and how produce is stored, and on making the agricultural economy of Kyrgyzstan more viable by aiding in the production of in-demand crops for export.

This, in turn, provides farmers with the money needed to purchase better tools and infrastructure for more sustainable practices.
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Sustainable Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan

For the time, sustainable agriculture in Kyrgyzstan is a struggle both economically and environmentally, and lack of proper nutrition has a negative impact on the population.

There is hope on the horizon, though, from a variety of programs funded by foreign aid in an attempt to not only provide Kyrgyz with proper nutrition but also make their agricultural practices so sustainable that they will be able to advance themselves in the future.

– Keegan Struble

Photo: Flickr

Women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan is on the rise. According to U.N. Women, the Central Asian democracy has signed more than 50 international agreements on women’s rights. The Kyrgyzstan government boasts civil, penal, labor and family codes aimed at ensuring equal rights.

Still, there’s a significant need for improvement. U.N. Women in Kyrgyzstan prioritizes fundamental areas such as economic empowerment and ending violence against women. Numerous other organizations and governments are instrumental advocates as well.

On May 27, 2017, Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev signed significant new domestic violence legislation. Domestic violence affects nearly one-third of women and girls aged 15 to 49 in Kyrgyzstan. Local organizations and activists helped to draft and pass the new law, which strengthens protections for victims and affords them new rights. The government now recognizes physical, psychological and economic violence. Victims will soon have recourse to shelter and services for both mental and medical health.

Previously, in 2014, President Atambayev specifically requested support from the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund for student peer education about violence against women. Through the program, youth learn about inequality and crimes such as bride kidnapping and forced underage marriage. Teachers lead a course called “My Safe and Peaceful School,” developed by U.N. Women with support from the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Education.

Women who win Kyrgyzstan elections are frequently removed or pressured to step down before taking office. After witnessing this happen to dozens of women in a recent election, the International Republican Institute joined forces with the Women’s Democracy Network to coordinate a series of private training sessions for women elected into local Kyrgyzstan councils. The training aimed to increase women’s access to leadership opportunities, culminating in a national forum on International Women’s Day in 2017.

USAID also promotes women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan through multiple initiatives. USAID Agro Horizon helps women access agricultural information and services, while USAID Business Growth Initiative provides business and management skills training for women-owned businesses. USAID Dignity and Rights focuses on the elimination of human trafficking. USAID Collaborative Governance Program has a sweeping aim, targeting domestic violence, women’s rights, leadership and entrepreneurship.

In January of 2017, Japan donated $490,000 to the U.N. World Food Programme for women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan, particularly for women in rural areas. Over 2,000 households will benefit from the funding, earmarked for the provision of vocational and business training for women. Small family farmers will be included as well, particularly female farmers.

During the ceremony celebrating the donation, Japanese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Yoshihiro Yamamura, observed that “empowered women benefit societies throughout the world.” The power of international, national and local initiatives is bringing this sentiment to fruition in Kyrgyzstan.

– Anna Parker

Photo: Flickr

The territory of modern-day Kyrgyzstan was once an important stop on the ancient silk road when brave traders needed to pass through the Tian Shan mountains. Today, many of the routes through the mountain passes remain the same.

Kyrgyzstan is a recovering ex-soviet state with infrastructure dating back to its occupation. Landlocked within the mountain range without many natural resources, international trade is difficult. The country uses the resources it does have to its benefit, the government is on good terms with many of its neighbors and as long as the current government does not follow the suit of former leaders, Kyrgyzstan is set to grow. However, infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan must improve along with its economy.

Traveling throughout Kyrgyzstan, although a challenge, is not impossible. Most travel takes place between its northern and southern regions; in the north, Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan is the main destination and in the south, it is Osh, home to one of the oldest bazaars in the world. The capital is home to the nation’s only international airport but because air services do not match the safety specifications of many nations there is not a high demand for international air travel. It is in Bishkek where the main train line runs across the northern border to Kazakhstan.

The railways are the major trade lines in and out of Kyrgyzstan. Many of the roads in the country are not open all year round due to the winter conditions in the mountains. But because 14.9 percent of the economy and 48 percent of the workforce is based on agriculture, the roads are essential since they are the only way for the people to get their goods to a trade hub. The majority of the manufactured goods come from urban industrialized areas. The steep frozen mountains are a blessing and a curse to infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan. The blessing is that 79.4 percent of electricity produced in Kyrgyzstan is hydro-electric. The many rivers and streams that run down from the mountaintops are a perfect environment for generating electricity, cutting down the country’s need to import natural gas and petroleum.

With electricity comes the internet. Currently, around 1.9 million people in Kyrgyzstan use the internet. The number is set to grow over the next decade. With the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Kyrgyzstan’s government is working to upgrade their domestic telecommunication systems. Much of the infrastructure in use is dated and left over from Soviet times.

The EBRD is not the only bank interested in improving the infrastructure of Kyrgyzstan. The Asian Development Bank has invested in Kyrgyzstan to help fight poverty and increase the country’s economic growth and sustainability. One way that the ADB is supporting the infrastructure of Kyrgyzstan is by allowing Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation Program. CAREC consists of 11 countries, their goal is economic growth in the region. The ADB is supporting the construction of three major transportation infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan. The projects are three of six corridors linking the CAREC countries to each other and the world. Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and Russia all have three major roads running through Kyrgyzstan.

In time, and with a stable government, infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan will improve and Kyrgyzstan will improve as a whole. Hopefully making access to its beautiful landscapes easier for everyone.

 – Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in KyrgyzstanKyrgyzstan is a mountainous country located in Central Asia, west of China and south of Kazakhstan. It gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and has had a rocky road, both politically and economically, since.

The GDP of Kyrgyzstan is $5.4 billion and it has the second lowest GNI in Europe and Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The poverty rate is 32.1 percent. Kyrgyzstan ranks 126th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index and 66th out of 146 countries on the Gender Inequality Index. Poverty is a relevant issue, and there are three main causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan.

1. No more Soviet support

Kyrgyzstan does not export many goods, though agriculture is the largest sector. While it has gold deposits that make mining attractive, the deposits do not make up for the other economic deficiencies. When Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet bloc, it could count on other Soviet satellite states for market opportunities, specifically on Russia for investment. Since independence, it no longer has this safety net.

Unemployment is 8.4 percent, so many workers leave the country and go to Russia to find opportunities. However, the remittances from former workers are not enough to sustain the economy. The economy has stabilized since the 1990’s, but it has a long way to go before it can support the 6 million citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

2. Insufficient agricultural development

Perhaps one of the largest causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan is its dependence on agriculture despite gaps in knowledge and resources. Two-thirds of the population live in rural areas: however, these people are not adequately trained in land management, animal husbandry, veterinary practices and harvest techniques. This results in land that can no longer produce food and feed animals at full capacity and a group of people who cannot subsist on their agricultural efforts alone.

It is not surprising then that 75 percent of poor people in Kyrgyzstan live in rural areas and that 12 percent of the total population is food insecure.

3. Lack of financial resources

Another result of the Soviet collapse in Kyrgyzstan is weak financial institutions. Financial institutions – such as a strong banking system, investment capabilities, microfinancing and personal finance management – are all key to sustaining economic growth, regardless of the dominant sectors.

Few people, especially those in rural areas, have access to banks and therefore have no ability to invest or save. Even at a national level, money is frequently mismanaged and Kyrgyzstan ranks poorly on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Kyrgyzstan may have a high poverty rate, but it has made great strides in reducing poverty in recent years. In 2000, the poverty rate was 62 percent: it has since been halved.

Economic and political uncertainty pose barriers to poverty reduction and economic development, but there is hope. The causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan are not incurable. Since the political revolution in 2010, Kyrgyzstan has been steadily stabilizing and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue reducing its poverty rate.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in KyrgyzstanThe landlocked Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and since then, the Kyrgyz people have faced an inordinate amount of hardship. This country of over 5.7 million people experiences frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes, mudslides and flooding. In combination with severe draught, these natural occurrences have rendered Kyrgyzstan unable to produce enough food to support its own people. 40 percent of the Kyrgyz people live in poverty and 27 percent live in a state of food insecurity.

The poverty crisis in Kyrgyzstan gained a new level of severity in 2008 after record drought preceded by one of the harshest winters the country has ever seen. That year’s harvest was virtually destroyed causing a spike in hunger in Kyrgyzstan. Since then, rising food prices, increased global economic instability and a violent political uprising have created a situation of serious urgency. Because of this, the people of Kyrgyzstan need the help of the international community now more than ever.

Over the past decade, Kyrgyzstan has actually seen considerable economic growth. However, this increase in gross domestic product cannot be correlated to an increase in quality of life for all Kyrgyz people; unfortunately, this growth has not positively affected the disadvantaged portion of the population.

One of the most prominent groups fighting hunger in Kyrgyzstan is the World Hunger Programme (WHP). Since the crisis in 2008, the WHP has been working on the ground in Kyrgyzstan to aid the most vulnerable members of the population. The WHP instituted a program where two months’ worth of food rations are given to those in need twice a year – just before winter and just before food is harvested at the end of summer. This program was utilized by 347,000 people per year, and as the crisis worsened in the following years, the WHP adapted their strategy to best help the people of Kyrgyzstan. They began to institute programs which worked to rebuild food production infrastructure and provide assistance and instruction on how to farm sustainably.

The most effective way which we can combat hunger in Kyrgyzstan is to donate time or resources to charities such as WHP. The Kyrgyz people are in dire need of assistance, and with the help of the international aid community, a food-stable Kyrgyzstan is a possible reality for the future.

Tyler Troped

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