Known mostly for its production of natural gas and oil, Turkmenistan does not need to depend only on a single economic pillar when looking to its future prospects. The country has the ability to expand its agriculture sector, which could yield dividends internally and cut down on foreign dependency with regards to food importation.
This sample economics paper explores the future prospects of the Turkmenistan government and people, addressing whether or not the nation can take advantage of its tremendous agricultural reserves to improve living conditions in the nation.
The New Turkmenistan: Natural gas and oil or farming
There are several key issues that the Turkmenistan government must deal with in order to capitalize on their growing agricultural endeavors. Among other things, these issues are irrigation and land reform. By taking necessary steps in the right direction, Turkmenistan could ultimately become a nation that is not only known as an exporter of natural gas and oil energy.
According to the International Business Economics Research Journal, Turkmenistan’s main two cash crops are cotton and wheat.
Cotton, once grown and harvested, is processed into a fiber and exported, while wheat is used mostly for domestic food supply. In addition to wheat, Turkmenistan produces fruits and vegetables as well as livestock; these commodities are used for domestic consumption mostly. Though agriculture is only the second most important sector of the economy, it draws 44% of the country’s labor force. Further, this 44% of the population is concentrated on working on only 4% of the nation’s land because it is the only suitable land for agricultural purposes (Gluhih, Schwartz Lerman, 2011).
Environment not hospitable
Turkmenistan is a mostly desert nation that has a very small percentage of usable farming land. Until May 1992, the government controlled all of this land. After passing legislation in 1995, The land has been leased out to individuals; in some cases, people can even own their own land for production. The land sold to individuals to farm tends to be what is known as “virgin land” in that it has not been worked to a state where any actual farming can occur. For land in this state, irrigation is one of the critical changes that must occur for any farming to be successful. This, however, is one of the ongoing problems facing the developing agricultural sector of the Turkmenistan economy and why oil continues to be a viable economic source (Gluhih, Schwartz Lerman, 2011).
Irrigation of farming land is one of the major challenges for agriculture within Turkmenistan. The nation, being mostly a desert climate, has limited access to water for agricultural purposes. In order to provide sufficient irrigation to what limited farming land is available, the Turkmenistan government has had to build extensive systems of canals to provide a system of irrigation to produce soil conditions that are suitable for agricultural purposes. Due to these poor natural conditions and other limiting factors, there has been a drop in Turkmenistan’s crop yield.
According to the US state department, each year since 2009 Turkmenistan’s crop yield has been declining from their previous harvest; 2009’s harvest yielded a gross tonnage of 823,000 (“Turkmenistan,” 2012).
Related Topic: Macroeconomics of Oil
Improving the country’s infrastructure
To combat these issues, Turkmenistan has two major prospective options. The first is to introduce a better irrigation system for the farming land of the country. The country is using a system that was largely built during the Cold War Soviet era. The main method employed for crops is surface irrigation. This method, however, brings about a one-fifth water loss rate due mostly to seepage and evaporation. New techniques are beginning to be investigated and are even being experimentally implemented in certain areas. One such new technique is micro-irrigation, which is much more effect than the older method of surface irrigation.
Another ongoing task that must occur lies in informing the general population of the more current techniques and technology available. Even though surface irrigation is a much older, inefficient technique for providing irrigation to crops, the general population, as high as 97% of respondents in some surveys, considers it to be the most effective method because they simply do not know about any other way to irrigate their crops (Gluhih, Schwartz Lerman, 2011).
The other main way that Turkmenistan can better its agricultural sector lies with implementing better management techniques for farmers to use on the land. One such way in which the Turkmenistan government can get better results from its agriculture sector is by transferring more control of land to family farms. By giving control of land that was once entirely the government’s to farmers through either sale or leases, the government can help give farming families a more vested interest in their work. When a group feels a deeper connection to their land, they will be more likely to give more effort to the success of their industry.
By selling the land outright to such families, the government can promote a system of more independence and responsibility among these farmers and, subsequently, set the ground for providing a better output of crops per harvest cycle. Of course, the Turkmenistan land laws that prohibit virtually all transaction in land hamper this endeavor. By implementing legislative changes to these strict laws, the government may be able to see increases in agricultural output (Gluhih, Schwartz Lerman, 2011).
Concluding thoughts on Turkmenistan’s future
Though Turkmenistan’s future is currently unknown, there is no reason to think that making the necessary changes will not put the nation on the right track for the future. With continuing development in the agricultural sector in the forms of a better irrigation system and better management of land, the future prospects of this nation tucked between Uzbekistan and Iran are not so dim. This relatively unknown nation has the potential to develop from being an almost purely an oil and natural gas state to a self sufficient, quality producer in the agricultural field. Coupling the two fields of natural gas and agriculture together could help to reduce the national debt of Turkmenistan and better the lives of the civilian population that currently reside within this former Soviet territory.
Turkmenistan. (2012, January 23). Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35884.htm
Gluhih, R., Schwartz, M., Lerman, Z. (2011). Land reform in turkmenistan: Does it work?. International Business Economics Research Journal, 2(2), 93-104.