Chemonics, through the USAID Land Reform and Market Development Program II in Kyrgyzstan, worked at national and local levels to inform local people about their land rights.
A nationwide referendum in October 1998 introduced private land ownership in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz people took private ownership of land for the first time in their country’s century-long history. For low-income citizens, land means major wealth.
Because much of the Kyrgyz population is engaged in agriculture, economic growth and poverty reduction require a well-functioning land market underpinned by secured land rights. Given the current state of international commodity markets, agricultural policy and land use problems are also closely related to the issue of food security.
In many cases, the project’s results exceeded target indicators. Although it aimed to achieve economic growth, the project also contributed to strengthening local democracy and good governance and fighting corruption. For example, the project cooperated with local governments to develop strategic plans for the use of state-owned agricultural lands presented at public hearings, stimulating citizen participation in decision-making on local issues.
Following enactment of private land ownership, the government of Kyrgyzstan introduced a moratorium on agricultural land purchase and sale to allow time for information campaigns to educate the public about their land rights. The moratorium was lifted in 2001, although the legislative framework to support a healthy land market in Kyrgyzstan had not yet been developed.
During the privatization program, the government divided more than 60 percent of all agricultural land into private parcels of 0.37 hectare. The government then subdivided into smaller parcels. Their small sizes and remoteness from settlements meant that the cost of transportation could exceed income derived from cultivation, often resulting in farmers’ abandoning the land.