The National Chamber of Entrepreneurs 'Atameken', in conjunction with local executive bodies, held meetings with farmers in each district to address and assess the scale of drought and losses. Commissions involving representatives from regional chambers have been established to solve and determine the extent of the drought. Considering the yearly reduction of water resources globally and climate change, the deficit of irrigation water will only exacerbate if drastic measures are not taken, as per the press service of the chamber.
The situation in the Zhambyl region this year has once again confirmed the existence of systemic problems in Kazakhstan's irrigated agriculture, as highlighted by the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs (NCE) "Atameken." The NCE has repeatedly proposed measures to develop the water industry.
They pointed out that drought and reduced water volumes from Kyrgyzstan led to a scarcity of irrigation water, resulting in a state of emergency declared in six districts of the Zhambyl region. Preliminary estimates suggest that 338 farmers were affected.
"Currently, out of 3298 canals supplying water for irrigation in Kazakhstan, more than half require repair and reconstruction. We use surface water delivery methods, often not in concrete channels. In many areas, water still flows through earthen channels. Consequently, a significant amount of water doesn't reach the fields and evaporates. In the context of water source limitations, this situation has become critical," stated Bauyrzhan Akhmetayev, Deputy Director of the Department of Agro-Industrial Complex and Food Industry at NCE "Atameken."
Firstly, addressing water losses is crucial. There is a need to intensify construction and reconstruction efforts of irrigation networks. Despite substantial costs, constructing main pipelines instead of open channels is vital.
Secondly, sector-specific laws are necessary to regulate public relations and enforce certain state measures. Kazakhstan currently lacks laws regarding land reclamation, safety of hydraulic structures, water supply, and drainage, despite previous discussions about some law projects that unfortunately weren't passed, as noted by the chamber.
Thirdly, special attention needs to be directed towards staffing issues, especially in specialized fields such as hydraulic engineering, geology, hydrology, and engineering. There is a severe shortage of professional personnel in various regions.
Fourthly, a review of the state's approach to irrigation development is necessary. Given that all canals are state-owned, it is crucial for the government to upgrade the irrigation system. They propose exploring measures for utilizing Public-Private Partnership potential. Involving private investors in constructing irrigation networks could significantly reduce state budget expenses and increase irrigated land areas, according to NCE "Atameken."
Besides Kazakhstan's water industry problems, particular attention should be given to crop insurance. Existing voluntary crop insurance tools, backed by government support, have shown high effectiveness. Annually, due to confirmed insurance cases, insurance payouts increase significantly. For instance, if in 2021 insurance payouts to farmers amounted to 824 million tenge, by 2023, after just two phases (out of three) of crop insurance, payouts reached 2.5 billion tenge, as highlighted by the chamber.
"Unfortunately, crop insurance does not cover irrigated lands today. For example, in Russia, the list of insured risks includes drought and low water levels in irrigation sources. If water levels drop, making irrigation of agricultural crops impossible, farmers can receive insurance payouts. If similar mechanisms were applied in Kazakhstan, the consequences for Zhambyl region farmers might have been less severe," noted the NCE.
Consequently, considering the current threats to Kazakhstan's agriculture, insurance instruments in the agricultural sector must be enhanced and expanded, summarized the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs.