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Abstract

The article reviews the development and the present status of smallholder farming in Central Asia’s former Soviet republics -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. One of the striking features of the transition in CIS agriculture in general, and in Central Asia in particular, is the dramatic shift, since 1992, from the predominance of large corporate farms (“agricultural enterprises”) to individual or family agriculture based on a spectrum of small farms (household plots and peasant farms). As of 2017, the individual sector accounts for most of agricultural production and controls a large share of arable land. This is a dramatic change from the pre-1990 period, when agricultural enterprises produced over 70% of GAO and controlled over 90% of arable land. In this article, we assemble evidence that, in our opinion, shows that individualization of agriculture is associated with the post-transition recovery in Central Asia (and in CIS in general) and that small family farms outperform the large enterprises. This clashes with the traditional Soviet philosophy of economies of scale and with the inherited ideology that views small family farms as an undesirable deviation from the capital-intensive, highly mechanized, and commercially oriented mainstream. We discuss the specific policies in the five countries that helped smallholder farms in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and severely restricted their growth and development in Uzbekistan and especially Turkmenistan.

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