Getting Back to Basics: Sustainable Agriculture in Kazakhstan

Getting Back to Basics: Sustainable Agriculture in Kazakhstan

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan’s large agricultural sector has experienced both successes and failures. The transition to a market economy was relatively organized compared to other post-Soviet economies, such as Ukraine, but it was still a major shock to the agricultural sector. This transition left Kazakh farmers at the mercy of global markets when many of their enterprises were still in their infancy.

Like many agricultural economies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Kazakhstan now faces the challenge of becoming and remaining internationally competitive without resorting to ecologically harmful or unsustainable practices. Kazakh leaders recognize the importance of embracing sustainable agriculture, and the future of sustainable agriculture in Kazakhstan looks promising.

The OECD has identified several key objectives necessary for the wider practice of sustainable agriculture in Kazakhstan. The primary obstacle is the high costs of production faced by Kazakh farmers, particularly smaller enterprises and family farmers. These high costs threaten livelihoods and make it difficult for smaller farmers to compete globally.

Integrating small farmers and reducing cost barriers are crucial for promoting sustainable agriculture in Kazakhstan. Additionally, the OECD has noted that certain aspects of Kazakhstan’s agricultural policy create unnecessary obstacles. To allow sustainable agriculture to take root, the OECD recommends streamlining the regulatory process and eliminating the excessive involvement of multiple interlinked agencies to reduce confusion around agricultural regulations.

Despite these challenges, the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture is actively promoting sustainable agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture is confident that these efforts will lead to long-term change, even though recent trends in Kazakh agriculture have leaned toward fossil fuel-dependent practices that are not suitable for the climate and environment. These methods have often been cheaper, making them the preferred choice in a country struggling to stay competitive. However, this has resulted in significant problems, with large parcels of formerly arable land now unsuitable for farming due to contamination and pollution.

The government is now focusing on promoting sustainable agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture is working to secure public buy-in by framing these efforts as a way to connect with Kazakhstan’s rich history and longstanding agricultural traditions, which were well-established in Kazakh society until less than a century ago. The government hopes that reviving these practices will promote both sustainable agriculture and national pride.

Kazakhstan is an excellent example of a country striving to correct its course after years of environmentally harmful practices. While the journey will be challenging, it is not impossible. If current efforts succeed, the future of sustainable agriculture in Kazakhstan looks bright.