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Cablegate: Turkmenistan: Farmers Speak Out in Mary Province

VZCZCXRO0812
RR RUEHAG RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0836/01 2271047
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151047Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9182
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0519
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0541
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2229
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0973
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0265
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1025
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0178
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 0227
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0149
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 0163
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0188
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 0501
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DHO-2/REA/NMJIC-J2//
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J5/RUE//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ASHGABAT 000836

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/A, EUR/ACE, EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID ENRG AF TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: FARMERS SPEAK OUT IN MARY PROVINCE

ASHGABAT 00000836 001.2 OF 004


1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public internet.

SUMMARY

2. (U) During his July 27 meeting with the economic growth
delegation led by USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Drew Luten, a
cautious Mary Hakim Muhammet Gurbannazarov credited the
contributions of Turkmenistan's first and current presidents for the
"nice lives" enjoyed by population. While outlining the Government
of Turkmenistan's significant plans for infrastructure projects in
the province, he highlighted President Berdimuhamedov's "huge
efforts" to improve the lives of the local population via support
for agricultural development. In offering guarded support for
USAID projects that correspond to official government programs,
Gurbannazarov stressed the importance of following local laws and
regulations and denied knowledge of recent obstruction of USAID
training activities in Murgap district by local government
officials. Site visits to two agricultural projects supported by
USAID's Water Users' Association program displayed the positive
impact on local farmers' productivity from small-scale investments
in drainage canals and water distribution systems. END SUMMARY.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF

3. (U) Following USAID DAA Drew Luten's introduction of the
delegation's goals and its desire to meet with officials in the
welayats as well as the capital, Mary Province Governor Muhammet
Gurbannazarov welcomed the delegation and said, "if you have been
here for a week, then you have seen happy people with nice
lives...started by the Great Serdar [Leader] Saparmurat Niyazov and
continued by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov." Gurbannazarov
proceeded to list some of the upcoming infrastructure projects to be
undertaken in Mary welayat: a new building for the Energy Institute,
a maternity clinic/hospital, a school for 600 students, a
kindergarten for 150 kids, a $12 million mosque, 50 Case and/or John
Deere tractors, 260 Russian tractors, 34 new Case and/or John Deere
grain combines, 20 Komatsu excavators and 10 bulldozers for cleaning
irrigation, and $2 million in pumps, engines, and spare parts for
irrigation systems. As a result, the "country is peaceful, people
enjoy free gas and water, and land is available if people want it."


4. (U) While outlining the delegation's goals, Luten noted the
importance of meeting with the local officials and population in
addition to meeting with various ministries because it was at this
level where people are closest to their government. Armed with a
better understanding of the government's priorities and how plans
were made, USAID could better decide how to provide international
expertise that supported these priorities. A new program aimed at
supporting private agriculture was good example, and USAID would
provide information on this program to both the Ministry of
Agriculture and to the hakim.

5. (U) Danica Starks of the Department of Commerce's International
Trade Administration introduced the Special American Business
Internship Training (SABIT) program, which had tripled its funding
for Turkmenistani participants this year. Suggesting that the
planned program for water systems management would be of particular
interest, Starks promised to provide information on the 2008
programs when the calls for applicants were announced.

6. (SBU) Gurbannazarov testily responded to Luten's explanation of
USAID's procedures for notifying the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
about training programs scheduled for the region and suggestion that
communication problems in Murgap district were behind recent
difficulties with several training sessions. USAID Country
Representative Ashley Moretz expanded on Luten's comments by
highlighting the positive cooperation in Mary welayat on USAID's

ASHGABAT 00000836 002.2 OF 004


health programs, including tuberculosis prevention and treatment,
and indicated that better communication and support from the hakim
could help to resolve the matter. First asking if he should go to
the MFA for specific details if they could not be provided,
Gurbannazarov then said that couldn't answer anything because "no
one consulted with us." Ultimately, he acknowledged the need to
improve communication.

7. (U) EUR/ACE's Dean Fischer said that while the government's
program to support agriculture was impressive, the United States
wanted to achieve the same goal through different means. Noting
that the United States represented the largest free-market economy
in the world and had examples of new ways of growing produce and
improving productivity to share, Fischer suggested that the upcoming
program supporting private agriculture could demonstrate to local
governments how the free-market approach could lift burdens from the
government. Both sides' common goal was to help Turkmenistan's
economy to expand, and the government could decide how far to
implement these ideas. If Turkmenistan's government was ready, we
could expand this program further.

ILKINJILER: "GOOD SOLDIERS" NOT AFRAID TO CRITICIZE CURRENT
POLICIES

7. (U) After the meeting with the hakim, the delegation visited the
Ilkinjiler Farmers' Association in Bayramali district. Ilkinjiler
began in 1997 as an informal association of farmers, and was
registered as a limited liability partnership organization in 2000.
The mission of the organization is to help new farmers to adapt to
the post-Soviet environment by providing economic and legal advice
and resolving issues related to accessing credit. In 2005, USAID
awarded Ilkinjiler a grant through Counterpart International to
increase farmers' legal awareness on the new land and water laws.
Later in 2005, Counterpart expanded its institutional grant to
establish an Agricultural Resource Center to support the public
advocacy and entrepreneurial capacities of farmers. Under this
project, Ilkinjiler assisted local farmers in conducting needs'
assessment, and provided community development and agricultural
business training. As a result of Ilkinjiler's activities, eight
new farmers' groups were established, four of which implemented
local community development projects.

8. (U) Following an overview presentation of the results of
Ilkinjiler's efforts under the USAID Water Users' Association
program, which included directly working with nine farmers' groups,
organizing 46 training sessions and 20 roundtables and providing
over 100 legal consultations per month, one of the Ilkinjiler
members present described the impact on his productivity of a $4,500
project grant to improve irrigation and drainage systems on his 300
hectares (HA). During the previous growing season, his yield for
thin staple cotton was approximately 25 centners/HA, but this year,
growing higher-cost long staple, he expected productivity to
increase to 35 centners/HA. He also said that stricter
implementation the government's system under which participants that
accepted subsidized inputs received higher prices for the 70% which
they were able to sell through the commodity exchange (NOTE: the
other 30% is delivered to the state at a nominal price as payment
for the subsidies. END NOTE.) was a "big leap forward" for farmers.
He suggested that farmers were invested more effort under this
system because they received "closer to a fair price" and that
productivity had increased as a result.

9. (U) To initial nods of approval by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs notetaker, the farmer then said that he and others did not
need financial support so much as they needed legal and technical
assistance. According to him, access to new technologies was
important for the new opportunities they catalyzed, and mentioned a
member who had traveled to the U.S. earlier this year on a USAID

ASHGABAT 00000836 003.2 OF 004


Community Connections trip focused on small business development.
"If a soldier doesn't aspire to be a general, he's not a good
solider," and they all wanted to be good farmers. Because
Turkmenistan is still a young country, though, excess bureaucracy
caused many problems in spite of the "progressive" legal base.
Issues of implementation of these laws were hampered by excess
bureaucracy, and demands by the central government were sometimes
"unrealistic." (COMMENT: By this time, the MFA notetaker had stopped
nodding in agreement, and instead listened intently to rare direct
government criticism with raised eyebrows. END COMMENT.)
"Ineffective" land distribution policies had reduced plots to 2 HA
in many cases, whereas the powerful western harvesting equipment was
designed for 100 HA plots. Noting that the U.S. had only 5 percent
of its population involved in agriculture and provides for the
entire country, Turkmenistan had half of its population engaged in
agriculture and "still couldn't provide for all." He closed by
encouraging the delegation to spread these messages to relevant
bodies during the course of its meetings. In response, Luten
stressed the importance of striking an appropriate balance between
government involvement and private efforts. USAID's role is to
provide information at both the policy level and to farmers, and one
of the delegations roles was to find this balance in Turkmenistan.


ZAMAN SAMAT: INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY AND INCOME

10. (U) The delegation next visited two farmer groups in Bayramali
district supported by the Agriculture Support Center administered by
"Ilkinjiler" under the Water Users' Association project since
September 2005. The first beneficiary, Zaman Samat, used grant
funds to assist the farmers in cleaning five kilometers of
irrigation and 2.5 kilometers of drainage systems, and in installing
two electric pumps and a transformer that improved irrigation in the
planting area. As a result, sowing land was expanded by 50 Ha, and
increased the farmer's productivity and income. This project has
provided benefit for 57 families who work on this plot and overall
had improved water supply for approximately 2,200 people.

BURKOZ: CLEANED DRAINAGE CANALS INCREASE YIELDS

11. (U) The second farmer group, Burkoz, built 17 new water locks
and repaired three old ones with project grant funds. In addition,
they cleaned 3.3 kilometers of irrigation canals and 3.2 kilometers
of drainage canals. As a result, 65 hectares of land was provided
with sufficient water, which increased the farmer's productivity by
70 percent. Additionally, their income increased about seven times
due to the combination of increased yields and the higher new cotton
purchase price introduced by state. As the local water table
further drops, yields are expected to continue to increase due to
the improved drainage. As the head of farmer group, Mr. Nuryev,
explained to the delegation, the experience of mobilizing the
community during implementation of the project helped them to
construct two bridges in the village with their own funds. Overall,
this project provided direct benefit for 23 family members and
improved the water supply for 5,000 estimated farmer-residents
living in this area.

COMMENT

12. (U) Although the Mary hakim denied knowledge of local
interference in USAID-supported training activity in Mary welayat,
the meeting presented an important opportunity to share specific
information about such obstruction with the highest welayat
official. In Turkmenistan's vertical and hierarchical system, the
support of the hakim is a critical step to eliminating harassment
from those pursuing what they believe to be the party line against
international organizations. One local implementing partner with no
knowledge of the conversation, separately reported to a USAID staff

ASHGABAT 00000836 004.2 OF 004


member in Ashgabat that the hakim mentioned to him last week that he
had ordered the problems in this etrap to cease. USAID has been
unable to verify this independently yet, but if true, it represents
a step forward in Mary welayat, where civil society organizations
have always been under tight control.

13. (U) COMMENT CONTINUED: That the farmer was openly critical of
government policies in front of a MFA notetaker demonstrates the
courage and independence of the Ilkinjiler group's members. In
spite of having one of its leaders imprisoned in late 2005 for
charges related to a mid-1990s break-up of a collective farm, the
group remains one of the most vocal advocates for its members rights
in Turkmenistan. USAID's new Community Empowerment Project and
AgLinks projects are well positioned to continue supporting their
local initiatives through both legal and technical economic
assistance. END COMMENT.

14. (U) DAA Luten has cleared this cable.

HOAGLAND

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