| Kazakhstan is a country located both in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is ninth largest country in the world in terms of its land area, and was the last among the Soviet republics to declare independence, in 1991. The capital of Kazakhstan is Astana, and the largest city Almaty. The population of Kazakhstan is estimated at 16.455 million (2011), of which 46% is rural and 54% is urban, and highly diverse in terms of ethnicities. The population density, however, is less than 15 people per square mile. Kazakhstan is divided into 14 provinces (oblıstar). The provinces are sub-divided into districts (awdandar). Almaty, Astana and Baikonur cities are not part of any province as they enjoy a special status. The country’s climate comprises warm summers and colder winters, and the precipitation varies between arid and semi-arid conditions. |
Kazakhstan is a resource-rich country. The most significant contributors to the national economy are oil and natural gas. Other exports include wheat (seventh largest producer of wheat in the world with yearly harvest of about15 million tons), textiles, livestock, and lately uranium. In 2007, the agriculture sector accounted for 5.82 percent of the GDP. Agricultural land occupies more than 23 million hectares, about 68 percent of which is considered as pasture and hay land. Main livestock products are dairy goods, leather, meat, and wool. Major products include wheat, barley, cotton, rice and poultry.
About half of the population is involved in agriculture. According to the Agricultural Register of the National Statistics Office, the 2003 data show the number of agricultural enterprise as 4,492, covering total of 11,900,000 hectares of arable land; the number of family farms are about 121,500 covering a total of 9,000,000 hectares; and household plots are about 1,831,600 covering a total of 250,000 hectares.
The privatization has doubled the number of family farms in 2003 as compared to that in 1998 and the arable land possessed by them has gone up from 19 percent to 42 percent. In 2003, family farms were producing 48 percent of the total agricultural output, including 26 percent of crop products and 87 percent of livestock products. These figures indicate rising number and importance of small farmers as potential target group for extension program planning purposes.
Some of the donors presently active in Kazakhstan include World Bank, FAO (mostly through regional projects and programs), UNDP, European Union, USAID, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and GTZ. The World Bank-financed Agricultural Competitiveness Project is the most relevant in terms of building the extension service of Kazakhstan.
HISTORY OF EXTENSION AND THE ENABLING/DISABLING ENVIRONMENT
Like in many former Soviet Union republics such as Bulgaria, Kazakhstan has also encouraged the distribution of previously state-owned farms among private owners, who have had no past experience in farm management. In the absence of comprehensive extension/advisory services, new farm owners in all categories have been facing difficulties in running their farms profitably. The collapse of old marketing system under which the former Soviet Union guaranteed marketing of produce from its republics, has also raised marketing issues. Kazakhstan does not yet have a full-fledged extension advisory service in conventional sense although the government has been trying to establish one.
Starting in 2005, the government created several ad hoc State Owned Enterprises to promote the budding private sector. In 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture established KazAgro holding (KA) and KazAgroInnovations (KAI). The KA covers seven joint stock companies that provide services like extension, credit, leasing, bank guarantees for borrowing farmers, cereal reserves, etc. The KAI covers 25 agricultural research institutes which have as many as 1,200 scientists; out of them 19 institutes enjoy national mandate while six address regional issues.
The government wanting to provide extension services to its farmers as “public goods” assigned the responsibility to one of the State Owned Enterprises called KazAgro Marketing (KAM). KAM signed a contract with a World Bank-financed Agricultural Competitiveness Project (ACP) that started in 2005.
During the four years, 2005-2008, KAM provided advisory services, organized seminars, issued publications, and tried a fee-based service system. The achievements included: 1) introduction of an extension system for the first time in Kazakhstan; 2) sensitization of farmers to demand for extension services; and 3) provision of assistance to farmers and related institutions to start the Competitive Grant Scheme.
KAM’s approach, however, exhibited certain weaknesses. First, its organizational/staff/logistics costs were too high but very little was spent on services for farmers resulting in low impact. Second, it could not establish a sustainable system. Third, the benefits supposedly received by farmers remained fuzzy. Fourth, its financial and reporting procedures were less than transparent. At the end of 2008, the World Bank project discontinued this contract with KAM.
During 2009 and 2010, the KazAgro Innovation (KAI) came up with a conceptual framework and the “strategy of the extension system development in the sphere of agriculture industry complex per 2010-2014”. The strategy was commented on by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and some of its components are currently being implemented on trial basis.
One of the four components of the Agricultural Competitiveness Project aimed at increasing the effectiveness of agricultural research and extension services, and it had a specific sub-component on agricultural extension. Although some progress was made towards clarifying the concept and dimensions of a possible extension system within the context of farmers’ needs and the country’s development strategy, yet the gains may at best be called a “work in progress”. The World Bank project is expected to close in 2012. The most positive factor is that the government remains committed to providing effective extension services to its farmers.