New Challenges for Poverty Reduction
Edited by M. A. Mohamed Salih
Chapter 10: Rural Poverty, Cotton Production and Environmental Degradation in Central Eurasia
10. Rural poverty, cotton production and environmental degradation in Central Eurasia Max Spoor The complex relationship between rural poverty, agricultural production and environmental degradation, in transition countries of Central Eurasia (CEA), in particular those where cotton is produced, is the topic of this chapter. In the definition used here, Central Eurasia includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan (Central Asia) and Azerbaijan (South Caucasus).1 The cotton–poverty–environment nexus (see also Spoor 2006b; Opschoor 2007a) is crucial in this large and relatively unknown part of the world, where important links exist between forms of over exploitation of land and (limited) water resources and the poor livelihoods of small cotton producers and cotton farm workers. Within an institutional framework that primarily promotes surplus transfer out of the primary sector, rent seeking by state and private elites and the continuation of resource degradation exists in the absence of proper incentives. Apart from high rates of rural money metric based poverty in some of these transition countries of Central Eurasia, the social infrastructure tends to be weak and deteriorated. Furthermore, environmental degradation of rural resources, such as water and sanitation are severe in exactly those areas where cotton has been long produced, as a near monoculture cash crop, negatively affecting land and water resources. The vast area of Central Eurasia is densely populated in certain areas. Much of its still predominantly rural population resides in oasis areas, along riversides and in some fertile valleys such as the Ferghana Valley (shared by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan...
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