Open Statement to United States, Secretary of State
February 7, 2016
Mr. John Kerry
Secretary of State
My name is Ahtam Shaymardanov. I am a political refugee from Uzbekistan.
I have been involved in the environmental and human rights movement in Uzbekistan since Soviet times. I am familiar with the many problems of Uzbekistan and other emerging countries in the Aral Sea region.
In 1994 I received a grant to support for educational activities of an agroecology education center “Seeds of Democracy” program of ISAR/USAID, and later I took part in various projects of USAID in Uzbekistan.
In 2008, I was forced to flee from my homeland because of the explicit threat of a long prison sentence for alleged anti-constitutional activity. I have lived in California and have been studying agroecology, organic gardening, and biological pest control, working with Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc.
For many years, I have taken part in discussions on ways out of the current crisis situation affecting the entire Aral Sea basin. The need for sustainable use of water, land and human resources is becoming increasingly important and urgent.
I am encouraged by a new stage of US policy in Central Asia – the launch of the new format of dialogue between the US and Central Asia, which was officially approved at the Samarkand meeting November 1, 2015. For the first time Washington developed an approach that involves five post-Soviet Central Asian states. This platform is a unique structure, uniting all these countries.
In my opinion it is particularly important for these five countries, to address acute problems of poverty reduction and to increase youth employment through more “smart” use of land and water resources, which are now inefficiently and even wastefully used by local governments.
In this region, there is need for deep reforms to redistribute state owned land. These agricultural land resources need to be distributed to unemployed youth, who work on the land – that is, to create a large class of farmers – the real owners of the land. And then the united efforts of these farmers will be able to form effective water policies of these five countries of Aral Sea basin.
But now even that small portion of agricultural land, which is personal property as family farms, there is inefficient use due to mismanagement and lack of comprehensive cooperation. There are millions of such smallholder family farms in the region.
November 1, 2015 the Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC published a Fact Sheet, “New U.S. Assistance Programs in Central Asia”. In particular
“It seeks to assist private sector firms in those industries to: understand the opportunities and requirements of markets; adopt technologies and techniques and develop the skills needed to produce to international standards; establish relationships with potential buyers and suppliers for long term growth; demonstrate new practices, technologies, or approaches that have potential to benefit the industry as a whole. The project also seeks to create jobs and provide private-sector skills training for youth who lack economic opportunities within Central Asia.”
To achieve these objectives, in my opinion, it is very useful to use the existing experience of US companies. For example, the successful achievements of the company Cisco on the implementation of the program “e-Agriculture” in India.
The ideas that I think are useful are the networking through moderated forums of peers (farmer to farmer) self-help to discuss subjects such as agroecology techniques, crop quality, ecological use of land and water, yield data, market data and field observations. This will lead to the many small holders improving their ability to produce crops, deal with pest problems and market their products. Young people are interested in computer networks and training in modern technology, especially when they can directly apply it to improve their income and their lives. The advancement of agroecology also promotes acceleration of carbon sequestration.