USAID supports drought-stricken farmers in Kazakhstan

By Kanat Altynbayev

A boy feeds horses in the Kaskelen Gorge in Almaty province, Kazakhstan, August 15. [Kanat Altynbayev/Caravanserai]

A boy feeds horses in the Kaskelen Gorge in Almaty province, Kazakhstan, August 15. [Kanat Altynbayev/Caravanserai]

ALMATY -- The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided a $100,000 (42.5 million KZT) grant to the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan to support the most vulnerable groups suffering from the drought in Mangystau province, according to a USAID press release on Friday (September 24).

Kazakhstan's hottest western and southern districts suffered the most from the prolonged drought this spring and summer.

The drought has killed thousands of cattle and horses, ravaged crops and depleted scarce freshwater.

Since animal husbandry is the top source of income in the province, the drought has severely damaged quality of life. It significantly diminished milk and meat production, reducing local incomes and leaving many without a livelihood.

"Over 200 households affected by livestock deaths will receive financial assistance to meet their primary needs," USAID said. "The amount of assistance will be calculated based on the subsistence minimum allowance for each member of the household."

After USAID completes a need assessment, it will deposit financial assistance directly in recipients' bank accounts, it said.

A month earlier, the European Union (EU) allocated €200,000 (99.2 million KZT) in humanitarian funding to provide vital support to Kazakh farmers. About 6,000 residents of the worst-affected regions -- Mangystau and Turkistan -- received assistance.

This funding was part of the EU's overall contribution to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.

Adapting agriculture

The funds received from the two foreign donors went to families whose household plots dried up, Kirill Pavlov, a Shymkent resident, independent analyst, and director of the Supreme Council of Farmers, told Caravanserai.

Each such family received more than $400 (170,242 KZT), he said.

This summer, Kazakhstan's west and south were abnormally hot and dry, with weather that burned up all the grass on pasturelands.

After food prices soared in the region, local residents began to sell off their emaciated livestock at deflated prices, blogger Azamat Sarsenbayev, from Aktau posted July 16.

"Local livestock breeders acknowledge that they have never faced this situation. They have lost animals at times but only in winter when the soil froze and livestock could not reach the grass," wrote Sarsenbayev.

To avoid a similar situation in the future, the government must develop an action plan to adapt agriculture to the new conditions that climate change will bring, said Nurlan Musin of Kyzylorda, an analyst from the National Association of Sheep Breeders.

"What happened last summer is a first call, which should be a lesson for us," Musin said. "We think the consequences of climate change are far away, but they are not."

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