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Civil Society and Social Movements Programme Paper 12: Agrarian Research Institutes and Civil Society in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan: In Search of Linkages

14 Apr 2005

  • Author(s): Malcolm D. Childress


The questions and challenges surrounding the linkage between civil society and agricultural research in these two countries are similar to those faced in many parts of the world where agricultural development plays a key role in food security, poverty reduction and growth.

Because of privatization, farm restructuring, the breakdown of Soviet distribution channels and the severe capital constraints on farmers, there is a demand in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for research into the development of low-cost technologies that meet local and regional needs. But agricultural research systems still largely reflect the model instituted during the Soviet period. In many cases, on-farm trials, farmer-driven research and adapting technology to cost considerations remain new and foreign concepts to researchers. However, as the country case studies show, these systems are under pressure to change. The imperatives of farmers and the market economy are increasingly being felt in the agricultural research community.

The country cases demonstrate that the priorities of the agricultural research systems continue to reflect national geopolitical and economic interests, in many cases limiting their relevance to the immediate needs of farmers. These research institutions, however, have great potential as mediators between state goals for agricultural and rural development, the new class of family farmers that has emerged since privatization, and the domestic and international markets that structure opportunities for these farmers. This potential will only be fully realized if research systems can shed their inherited institutional approaches to setting priorities and rewarding researchers, and adapt their basic research and diffusion activities to new demands from the farmers. Civil society has a large potential role to play in assisting the agricultural research community to adapt to the needs of the new agricultural sector. International experience with civil society and agricultural research linkages offers compelling suggestions of the shape such a transformation might take.

Malcolm D. Childress is currently a member of the rural development staff of the World Bank.

Order CSSMPP 12 from UNRISD (US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students).