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IAMO Forum 2019: Interview with keynote speaker Sergiy Zorya from World Bank

28 May 2019 - This year's IAMO Forum is dedicated to smallholder farming. Farms measuring less than two hectares produce one-third of the world's food, they boost agricultural growth and strengthen rural areas. But a lack of junior staff and agricultral policy programmes, which tend to benefit medium-sized and large farms, present small farmers with major challenges. In the run-up to the Forum, IAMO conducted interviews with a number of keynote speakers and will publish the talks here in the coming weeks.

Dr. Zorya, in which sectors do small farms play the most important role in Central Asian countries in general and Uzbekistan in particular?

Small farms are a dominant type of farms in most Central Asian countries. They could be individual commercial farms, dehkan farms (small-scale family-based farms, using mainly family labor) or household plots. For instance, in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, small farms account for the most of the agricultural production. In Uzbekistan, small farms produce 65 % of horticulture and 90 % of livestock products, generating more than a half of agricultural value added. They co-exist with larger farms producing cotton and wheat, similarly to the situation in Kazakhstan, where small farms focus on livestock and horticulture products while large farms produce wheat and other grains.

Which farms are considered small in these sectors? What is their size?

Average size of farms in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan is 3-5 ha, so they all could be considered as relatively small. In Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan the farm structure is dualistic: dehkan  and household plot farms, which are semi-commercial, are 0.5-1.0 ha each, while individual farms producing cotton and wheat average 100 ha.

What do you think are the most important challenges for the development of small farms in Central Asia today?

Firstly, small farms do not have enough volume of production. Also, such factors as difficulty to assure consistent quality and food safety standards, weak professionalization (farming is one of many jobs) and high transaction costs to reach smallholders by processors and supermarkets, are among the main challenges of small farms in the region. In addition, smallholders in Central Asia are averse to collective action due to the history of the Soviet collectivization. These market failures and challenges make it difficult for smallholders to penetrate food markets influenced by safety and quality-oriented consumers, and they essentially exclude small farms from modern food value chains.

What is the World Bank doing to contribute to the development of small farms and provide policy support to them?

The World Bank works in several directions to support the development of smallholders, including pursuing policy dialogue to let farmers produce profitable and labor-intensive products, financing public goods and ensuring that smallholders access them (including using digital technologies), providing conditional matching grants to smallholders, so that smallholders could invest in common assets to build farm organization around these assets. Additionally, the World Bank cooperates with processors as drivers of integration - productive partnerships with agribusinesses/exporters - using a mix of matching grants, credit lines, and technical assistance. Piloting the delivery of some public services to agribusiness through PPP arrangements, due to low government capacity and incentives, also is among the Bank’s activities.

Thank you Dr. Zorya for your answers. See you soon in Halle (Saale)!