In 2013, Turkmenistan became one of eighteen developing countries to successfully reach Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 and the World Food Summit (WFS) goal to reduce the number of people malnourished and living in extreme poverty.

Since reducing hunger in Turkmenistan was already achieved before 2000, the country faced a challenge to reduce by a third the number of people living on less than 50 percent of the monthly average income as their MDG 1 target. The WFS goal, which ended in 2012, was to reduce the number of malnourished people by half. These achievements were celebrated in Rome in 2013.

The economy in Turkmenistan is one of the fastest rising economies in the developing world growing 10.3 percent in 2014. Most of their economic growth is due to their supply of raw materials such as natural gas and petroleum. In return, the economic growth provides a way for Turkmenistan to combat hunger and malnourishment.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Turkmenistan had serious concerns regarding hunger in 1995, and in 2015, IFPRI rates the level of concern on hunger in Turkmenistan as low.

While Turkmenistan is producing and exporting wheat, there are many difficulties the country faces. Turkmenistan relies on 95 percent of its water resources to come from upstream countries while the desert terrain makes crop cultivation difficult. The income growth has not been able to increase fast enough for people to afford rising food prices, which increased about 25 percent in 2014.

Initial inflation of wheat prices were due to the sudden decision to export wheat in 2010 and the decline of wheat harvest every year since that decision. Turkmenistan fell short of its 1.6 million-ton wheat harvest target in 2014 causing prices to increase again heading into 2015. And now that Turkmenistan is charging citizens for electricity and gas, the budgets of many families living in poverty are strained.

“My salary is barely enough to feed my family,” said a resident from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. “So what if we have huge energy resources? Ordinary people don’t gain much from that.”

The money made from their energy sources is not enough to keep food prices low to help families living in poverty. Turkmenistan needs to find a way to invest in better irrigation and management practices with the money being made from their energy sector in order to slow down the increase in food prices and reverse the decline of crop yield.

— Donald Gering

Sources: UNDP, FAO, IFPRI, USAID, BBC, Jamestown Foundation, Eurasianet
Photo: Trend News Agency