If one ignores the oldest trade in the world, animal breeding for the nation of Kyrgyzstan goes further back in time than any other human activity except hunting and stone carving – even further than crop cultivation and mining. Today, nearly half of Kyrgyzstan’s territory consists of grazing grounds, even though the times of the year they can be used for the purpose vary. With cattle farmers being left with land property but without financial resources to develop them to speak of, institutional financial backups have been mobilised in the form of funding from the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China and other supporting countries, along with funds made available by  the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international funders. The next item on the agenda is the question how to use those funds in the most effective manner in order to avoid financial deadlocks and let productivity prevail.

 

photograph © 2014 Charles van der Leeuw

photograph © 2014 Charles van der Leeuw

“According to historical texts and archeological findings, Turkic and Mongol tribes on the territory of the modern Kyrgyzstan in VIXIII centuries lived nomadic life raising mainly horses and sheep which were their ‘sources of food, drink and clothing’,” an inventory drafted last decade and adopted by the state for land policy ever since its time of writing [http://landportal.info/sites/default/files/kyrgyz_livestock_pasture_management_and_use.pdf] reads.. Horses were the major trade commodity to urban settlements in Central Asia and China. Camels and yaks were bred in smaller numbers and mainly for transportation purposes. In some areas, especially in the Southern areas they raised goats. Crop production was spotty and not sustainable. Only later in XVII-XIX centuries with various administrative and land reforms conducted by colonizers and then growing trend of land cultivation and gradual settlement of population, cattle started to take a prominent position in the composition of herds of tribes living in and around fertile valleys. With the diminished migrations horses had become less popular and camels almost completely disappeared.

 

Protected by regional economic umbrellas, Kyrgyzstan’s cattle breeders survived all political storms in history – except for the latest one almost a quarter century ago. “The livestock industry in the Kyrgyz Republic has always been a leading contributor to the nation’s economy, historically contributing through high-value food production, employment and foreign exchange in the form of milk, beef and beef product exports. But this ceased to be the case once the nation separated itself from Soviet rule,” a recent article on projects to revamp the sector [http://www.ifdc.org/Projects/Current2/Eurasia_Division/Kyrgyzstan-Agro-Input-Enterprise-Development-Follo/] ewS] published in the IDFC Magazine read.

 

“According to FAO, approximately 48 percent of the country’s land, nearly 9,257 ha, is permanent meadow and pasture land. Industry growth is focused on improving the health and production of the animals in the form of genetic improvement and increased milk and meat productivity while optimizing the use of available natural pasture land resources. “Improved bovine breeds, modern and more efficient methods of artificial insemination, improved care for calves and cattle and additional advancements in raising livestock will improve the Kyrgyz economy and the lives of its citizens,” IFDC’s Economic Development Fund (EDF) III coordinator, Begler Aslanov was quoted as stating in the article.

 

Kyrgyzstan could still rightfully be dubbed a “natural home” for both cattle and their breeders. “Pastures make up for more than 86 per cent of agricultural land of the country and cover area of 89,000 km2,” the inventory survey quoted above reads “In addition to designated rangeland, there are additional pastures that are classified as part of the ‘Forest Fund’. The total amount of this Fund is 32,000 km2, of which 21,300 km2 have no actual forest cover and are effectively rangeland pasturage. The favourable climatic conditions put Kyrgyzstan way ahead of other former Soviet republics (see table) in terms of livestock produce productivity if one keeps the limited land use and available working force in mind.

Livestock Products Output in 1st Quarter 2014 for Kyrgyzstan and sourrounding states.

Countrycattle/poultry live weight in tonneweight ±%milk tnmilk ±%eggs pcs.eggs ±%
Kyrgyzstan136700+1.3%496100+2.4%181400+4.7%
Kazakhstan551200+4.3%1782000+2.4%1604000+6.0%
Russia4631000+3.9%11737000-0.9%16620000-2.9%
Belarus661300-5.0%2688000-1.3%1605000+5.5%
Tajikistan48800+5.6%250600+3.6%127500+5.3%

source: CIS Interstate Statistics Committee, Moscow