KYRGYZSTAN TO GET NEW CONSTITUTION AT LAST  After two years of argument about 
the constitution, President Bakiev is pushing through a quick solution – 
although not everyone is happy with his vision of how Kyrgyzstan should be 
governed.  By IWPR staff in Bishkek and London

SHOPS SHUT FOR TAJIK HARVEST  Trade grinds to a halt in parts of southern 
Tajikistan as local officials order markets and shops to close so the workers 
can help bring in the cotton harvest.  By Saidrahmon Nazriev and Biloli Shams 
in southern Tajikistan and Aslibegim Manzarshoeva in Dushanbe

UZBEK REGION TIGHTENS UP ON COTTON  The enticing prices fetched by cotton in 
neighbouring Kyrgyzstan means Andijan is particularly prone to smuggling.  By 
an IWPR contributor in Central Asia

SPICE ROW IN KYRGYZSTAN  Thousands earn an income picking wild capers, but this 
new industry has spawned debate about sustainability, fair pay and government 
regulation.  By Abdumomun Mamaraimov in Jalalabad


CENTRAL ASIA: JULY/AUG ’07  Journalism teachers and students believe new IWPR 
manual will serve as an important training resource in the region.  By Saule 
Mukhametrakhimova, Central Asia editor.


http://www.iwpr.net/kurtschork.html to find out more.

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Sahar al-Haideri, to support journalist participants in its training and 
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After two years of argument about the constitution, President Bakiev is pushing 
through a quick solution – although not everyone is happy with his vision of 
how Kyrgyzstan should be governed.

By IWPR staff in Bishkek and London

Kyrgyz citizens are due to vote in a national referendum next month that could 
finally put paid to two years of turbulent debate about what kind of 
constitution their country should have.

However, many analysts interviewed by IWPR say a new constitution put forward 
by President Kurmanbek Bakiev leaves the balance of power with him rather than 
parliament, and does not advance the cause of democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

Bakiev announced the October 21 referendum only a month beforehand, in a 
state-of-the nation speech he gave on September 19. The move was a response to 
a Constitutional Court ruling five days earlier that the current constitution, 
passed in December 2006, was null and void. 

The present said his hand had been forced by the court’s decision. “Quite 
frankly, that news was difficult for me to take, but once I had looked at the 
Constitutional Court’s documents and conclusions, there was nothing left to do 
but and admit it was right and acknowledge that the law is supreme… It should 
serve as a lesson to all of us.”

Bakiev used his speech to set out the main points of a new constitution which 
he wants people to vote on. It is unclear when and how this document was 
drafted, since the court ruling came as a surprise to many. 

If this draft is approved in the referendum, the current parliament or Jogorku 
Kenesh (Supreme Assembly), elected in early 2005, could be dissolved by the end 
of the year to make way for a new one. 


The constitution has been at the centre of political debate since the March 
2005 revolution which ousted the then president Askar Akaev from power. 

In October 2005, Bakiev, who had been elected president three months earlier, 
set up a “constitutional conference” with nearly 300 members, tasked with 
drawing up a new document. By December 2005, after months of work, there were 
multiple drafts of the constitution in circulation, but no conclusive result, 
and Bakiev decided to put the whole process on hold. 

Demands for constitutional reform then became a central rallying-point for the 
opposition, which accused Bakiev of failing to deliver on reform pledges and 
accumulating too much power. They wanted a new constitution to slash the 
authority of the head of state and give more powers to parliament instead. 

In November 2006, under pressure from large opposition demonstrations, the 
authorities agreed to a compromise document, which parliament swiftly adopted. 
This version of the constitution strengthened the role of parliament and 
limited the president’s authority. 

At the end of December, however, the constitution was reworked yet again and 
rapidly passed by parliament, reportedly after Bakiev threatened to dissolve 
the body if it did not comply with his wishes. The revisions largely 
re-established the status quo ante and restored most of the powers the 
president lost in the previous month’s version.

The Constitutional Court ruling of September 14 said that neither the November 
nor the December 2006 constitutions counted as valid, because they were passed 
without reference to the court. 

Reviewing a case brought by two members of parliament, judges ruled that it was 
not lawful for the legislature to amend its rules of procedure to allow itself 
to pass constitutional amendments without referring them to the court. 

The court said that Kyrgyzstan must revert to the constitution of 2003 for the 
time being.


Outlining the new version, Bakiev said its main thrust was to increase the role 
political parties play in Kyrgyz political life. All elected members of 
parliament should be answerable to parties rather than being “unaccountable and 
beyond anyone’s control”, he said. 

At present, he argued, “even a small number of deputies protecting local 
interests or the interests of a narrow group of businessmen can block the 
passage of important pieces of legislation, or push through laws that suit 

The proposed constitution draft would see the one-chamber legislature increase 
in size from 75 to 90 seats. That change is not new, but inherited from the 
December and November 2006 documents. 

However, whereas those versions envisaged that the old first-past-the-post 
electoral system would be replaced with proportional representation for just 
half the seats, the latest draft would see all seats filled by the new method, 
which is based on party lists. 

As Bakiev pointed out, in the Kyrgyz political environment, the 
first-past-the-post system has worked to the advantage of local strongmen 
rather than democracy. In past elections, he said, that has allowed “votes to 
be bought, a divisive situation in every village and even every family…, armed 
clashes between candidates’ supporters, pressure on election commissions and 
even the seizure of [buildings of] the judiciary”. 

“All this has to be stopped,” he said. “We need responsible parties which 
decide on a strategy of action and put their ideas and decisions into action.”


The change to full proportional representation will affect the way governments 
are formed, and Bakiev’s critics say he is placing himself in an unassailable 
position since it will be difficult for any one of Kyrgyzstan’s numerous 
political parties to win a parliamentary majority. 

Under the proposed system, if one political party wins over half of the 90 
seats, it can nominate a prime minister for the president’s approval. With such 
a high hurdle for parties to meet, some analysts doubt any will be successful, 
so that Bakiev will be able to exercise the alternative provision which allows 
him to approach any party and ask it to form a government.

According to political scientist Shairbek Juraev, the possibility that a 
marginal party could be asked to form a cabinet goes against the spirit of 
proportional representation. 

“The whole idea behind shifting to a proportional system is that the government 
must have the support of parliament,” he told IWPR’s News Briefing CentralAsia 

Moreover, he said, the parties’ room for manoeuvre is further restricted by the 
fact that there is no mechanism for them to build parliamentary coalitions in 
cases where none of them has an individual majority. 

“However you want to describe this form of government, it will in practice be a 
presidential system,” he said Juraev. 


In his speech, Bakiev identified another element of the proposed constitution 
as being to “strengthen the hierarchy of executive power, and give [regional 
and district] governors a greater role and more accountability, making them 
effectively into the president’s representatives on the ground”. 

The new draft gives the president powers of appointment to most senior 
positions – he approves a prime minister, whose name is put to him by 
parliament. The prime minister then comes up with a cabinet which the president 
again approves. 

The president also names the members of the National Security Council, and 
appoints and dismisses local judges. He also submits nominations to parliament 
for the posts of Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges, the prosecutor 
general, the National Bank chief and the head of the Central Election 

The president has wide-ranging powers to dismiss some, but not all, senior 
officials without consulting the legislature. These include the prime minister, 
cabinet members, the prosecutor general, and the National Bank and Central 
Election Committee heads 

His critics argue that this leaves Bakiev and his successors as president with 
far too much power. 

“This new draft constitution is aimed at creating a super-presidential system, 
since the president has all the leverage when it comes to appointments and 
dismissals,” said Asiya Sasykbaeva, the head of the Interbilim rights group.

Gulnara Iskakova, a constitutional law expert who is acting professor at the 
American University of Central Asia, says the mechanism by which the president 
can sack the entire government replicates the 2003 constitution.

“What’s the point of having a government formed by political parties when it 
can be dismissed by the president?” she asked.


One obvious result of the change to the election system is that political 
parties will have more of a formal role to play. More than any other Central 
Asia country, Kyrgyzstan has a large number of parties representing a wide 
range of political views. In practice, though, they do not play much of a role 
because the current parliament – elected under the old system – is still in 

Many observers believe that if parliament is dissolved to make way for an 
election to a new-shape legislature, there will be a flurry of activity as 
parties – both pro-government and opposition – join forces to create bigger, 
more powerful entities that are capable of winning substantial numbers of 

Iskakova points out that members of parliament can lose their seats if the 
political party they belong to ceases to enjoy legal recognition. This would 
make it possible to get rid of troublesome deputies by refusing to grant their 
party a renewal of their registration with the justice ministry – something all 
parties require to be allowed to stand in elections. 

In his speech, President Bakiev also indicated that he wanted to set up his own 
political vehicle, which he described as “a party of creation, a party of 
responsibility, a party of action”. 

Political scientist Turat Akimov believes such a pro-government force is likely 
to include Moya Strana (My Country), which is led by the head of the 
presidential administration Medet Sadyrkulov; Novy Kyrgyzstan (New Kyrgyzstan), 
headed by presidential adviser Usen Sydykov; and the Social Democratic Party, 
which is led by Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev and Finance Minister Akylbek 

Akimov fears that such a pro-government alliance might dominate Kyrgyz 
politics, as has happened in Russia and Kazakstan, where the sheer weight of 
the pro-presidential parties United Russia and Nur Otan, respectively, have 
left the opposition on the margins.

In an August 18 election in Kazakstan, which also followed changes to the 
constitution envisaging a new-shape legislature, Nur Otan, swept the board and 
won every seat in the lower chamber.

Political scientist Zayniddin Kurmanov does not think Kyrgyzstan will go this 
way, as the opposition is more established there. “A presidential party in 
Kyrgyzstan is going to win most of the seats, but not 90 per cent like in 
Kazakstan. Opposition parties will get 25 to 30 per cent of the vote,” he said..


Perhaps surprisingly, the Kyrgyz opposition has so far not seized on Bakiev’s 
unilateral move to call for new protests. Its last major action was in April 
this year, when a street rally calling for Bakiev’s resignation and a new 
constitution fizzled out after police moved in to break up protestors.

Following the Constitutional Court ruling, Valentin Bogatyrev, director of the 
Fund to Support Development Programmes, said he doubted a major new political 
crisis was on the way.

Assuming the referendum result goes in Bakiev’s favour, Bogatyrev predicts that 
a new constitution will be in place by the end of the year.

While the November and December constitutions also envisaged changes to 
parliament and led to calls for the legislature to be dissolved to make way for 
fresh elections, nothing happened. In his speech, Bakiev said legislators had 
actively blocked attempts to unseat them.

This time round, it seems certain that parliament will be dissolved. In his 
speech, Bakiev made it clear he did not envisage a period where the new 
constitution was in force yet the old-style legislature remained in place, 
seeing out a mandate which ends in 2010.

“The majority of the Jogorku Kenesh’s members do not plan to shift to a party 
based system, and are doing everything they can to sabotage it,” he said. “So 
in addition to the constitutional bill, we’ll be putting a draft election law 
on the referendum agenda. That’s because there is a need to pin down as quickly 
as possible the legal mechanisms for holding elections under the new 
party-based system.” 

On September 18, parliament reacted to the Constitutional Court ruling by 
passing a vote of no confidence in the institution, and asked the president to 
nominate new judges. 

Bakiev’s views can be judged by his state-of-the-nation speech the following 
day, in which he did not even refer to the no-confidence motion and urged 
everyone to get on with the constitutional reform so as to put an end to 
political battles and focus on economic and governance tasks”.


Trade grinds to a halt in parts of southern Tajikistan as local officials order 
markets and shops to close so the workers can help bring in the cotton harvest.

By Saidrahmon Nazriev and Biloli Shams in southern Tajikistan and Aslibegim 
Manzarshoeva in Dushanbe

People in cotton-growing areas of southern Tajikistan complain they have been 
finding it hard to buy food and other essentials since the local authorities 
began closing shops and markets so that staff could be sent to help gather in 
the cotton crop.

Following a decision by a special committee called “Cotton-2007” set up to 
manage the harvest in Khatlon region, which covers the south of the country, 
markets have been closed in the districts of Kumsangir, Kolkhozobad, Panj, 
Khuroson, Qabodiyon and Jami, and the traders sent out to the cotton fields to 
help the farmers. 

According to a representative of Tajikmatlubot, an association of trading firms 
– market stalls are kept closed all day until four or five in the afternoon so 
that traders can be sent to the fields to gather cotton.

“If traders can’t work and can’t sell their seasonal goods on time, and if the 
rent isn’t collected on their stalls… the losses will be serious,” said the 
Tajikmatlubot official, who did not want to be named.

“If they aren’t working, how will it be possible to tax them? This will have a 
negative effect on government revenues.”

Local officials deny giving any such orders and insist people are volunteering 
to help farmers.

During the Soviet era, it was common practice to close workplaces during the 
harvest so everyone could be despatched to the fields. Since independence, 
attempts to organise adult volunteers systematically have been less successful. 
The widespread use of child labour, with pupils taken of school en masse to 
work long hours in the field, remains a concern, as IWPR reported recently 
(Tajik Prosecutors Investigate Child Labour Claims, (RCA No. 501, 13-Jul-07).

Last year, the provincial governor of Khatlon, Amizsho Miraliev, slammed the 
Kumsangir district administration for closing markets during the cotton harvest 
season, and ordered the decision to be reversed. He has since been replaced.

The practice has been revived, as regional officials face continued pressure 
from above to meet high production targets. Although farms in Tajikistan are 
privately owned, the land they work is still leased from the state. As a 
result, farmers are more or less obliged to grow the amount of cotton they 
instructed to produce, and to sell it to the state at artificially low prices. 
Local government is roped into ensuring Soviet-style plans are fulfilled.

IWPR contributors visited two southern districts, Panj and Vose, to see how 
widespread the market closures were.

Towards 1 pm on September 13, when the central market in Panj district should 
have been bustling, the stalls were closed, with a just few owners wandering 
around aimlessly. 

Several women selling carrots were approached by a policeman who asked them to 
gather up their goods and move on.

“Wait until 4 pm,” he advised them. “My boss might come along, and if he sees 
you, he’ll punish me. You can start selling again later.”

IWPR was unable to speak to anyone in the market’s management – it transpired 
that they had been sent off to pick cotton like everyone else.

Mahliko had travelled from a remote village to buy food supplies for the 
night-time meals of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which began that day, 
and was upset to find the market closed.

“If I have to wait until [trading starts at] 4 pm, I’ll miss the bus and 
probably won’t find any other way of getting home,” she complained. 

Another disappointed shopper had come in from the Jami district to buy school 
uniforms for her children. “Since the markets are closed, we’ll have to go to 
Qurghon-Teppa [a bigger town] but that’ll cost a lot,” she said.

Mansur, a resident of Kumsangir district, said it had become hard to buy bread. 
Although the markets reopen at around six in the evening, there are long queues 
and arguments break out between frustrated shoppers, he said.

“They’ve banned the use of taxis in this district,” he said. “We give some 
money to drivers we know are going to Dushanbe or Qurghon-Teppa so that they’ll 
buy bread for us there,” he said. “We’ve even written to the president’s 
website about this.” 

People in other areas complained of being corralled into taking part in the 

For the last couple of years, the local authorities have closed two large 
markets in the Vose district at harvest time. This year, they have even 
recruited Muslim clerics to drum up volunteers. IWPR observed one mullah 
instructing mosque-goers to help on the farms and then provide documentary 
evidence of this to their local cleric, who would then report to the 

Local farmers confirm that armies of people are turning up to help pick cotton.

The overseer at one private farm told IWPR that every day, 200 “volunteers” 
arrived to help his team, although in his view they contributed little.

“To be quite honest, they just come and pass the time. They only gather four or 
five kilos, some of them maybe ten. So 200 people won’t even gather a ton of 
cotton in the course of a day,” he said.

A local government official in Panj district acknowledged that people had 
mobilised for action, “In most organisations and offices in the district, there 
is only one person on duty, and the rest are away gathering cotton.”

But he was adamant that market traders and other “volunteers” were going of 
their own free will. 

Over in Vose district, local government chief head Alimurod Tagaimurodov denied 
any threat had been made to close mosques. 

“We did not give such orders, nor did we warn that we would close the mosques,” 
he said. “We simply asked representatives of the jamoats [lowest tier of local 
government] and the mullahs in the district to go around the mosques and tell 
people to go out into the fields and help our farmers during the cotton 

Higher up the chain of authority, officials in the Khatlon regional government 
issued similar denials. “Staff members [here] gave no formal order to close 
down the markets,” said departmental chief Davlatkhuja Mirzoev said.

Finally, at national level, the head of a government agricultural department, 
Jumakhon Safarov said he was unaware of any decision by the Khatlon 
administration to close markets and shops, although he said he was aware of 
market closures in some parts of the region.

“I personally am against forced labour - everyone has his or her own job to 
do,” he said.

There is, however, little financial incentive for anyone to go and pick cotton 
voluntarily. According to an analyst who did not want to be named, pickers are 
paid the equivalent of three US cents per kilo of cotton, and each person will 
on average gather about 40 kilos in a day, which means earnings of just over a 
dollar – four somonis in the local currency. 

“That’s why people don’t want to work in the fields. The work is back-breaking 
and the pay miniscule,” said the analyst.

Salim, a businessman in Panj, asked why he should be going off to do the 
farmers’ job for them. 

“We’re under no obligation to close our shops and go to gather cotton,” he 
said. “These private farms are businesses just like ours and have their own 
shareholders… They should get them involved in gathering their harvest,” he 

“Why is no one looking out for us? Who will compensate us for the losses we 
incur by closing our shops?”

Saidrahmon Nazriev, Biloli Shams and Aslibegim Manzarshoeva are IWPR 
contributors in Tajikistan.


The enticing prices fetched by cotton in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan means Andijan 
is particularly prone to smuggling.

By an IWPR contributor in Central Asia

The authorities in the Andijan region of eastern Uzbekistan are taking steps to 
ensure this autumn’s cotton harvest is better organised than before and that 
none of the crop goes astray.

But cotton industry insiders predict that theft and redirection of the crop 
will remain a problem as long as farmers can command a higher price in 
neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

Prompted by a disappointing harvest last year, the authorities in Andijan have 
introduced a raft of new measures to increase controls over the cotton crop, 
making picking more efficient and reducing the opportunity for theft and 

While farmers in Uzbekistan work in the private sector, they are still required 
to meet Soviet-style production quotas for cotton and grain, which they then 
have to sell to state purchasers at artificially low prices.

Uzbekistan is the world’s second-largest exporter of raw cotton, and Andijan is 
an important producing area. It lies close to the border with Kyrgyzstan and so 
has a particular problem with farmers smuggling cotton into the neighbouring 
country where they can get a higher price.

This autumn, the regional authorities will pioneer a new team-based approach to 
harvesting cotton to make the process more efficient and ensure the crop does 
not go astray before it reaches the official collection points.

In a local TV programme, Andijan provincial governor Ahmadjon Usmonov outlined 
how the new system - already being used to harvest grain - should work. 

A total of 1,500 teams of around 150 harvesters each will be assigned to farms 
across the region. Team leaders appointed by local authorities will manage the 
whole process - organising harvesters, arranging collection of the crop, and 
transporting it to delivery centres. A policeman and prosecution service worker 
will be assigned to each team to oversee the work, and a doctor, nurse and 
mechanical engineer will also be on hand to make sure nothing holds up the work.

Usmonov cited as an example one team which will consist of farm workers and 
local residents and be led by a school headmaster in the Bulakbashi district.

The idea is that opportunities for theft will be reduced as once gathered, the 
cotton will no longer lie in the fields overnight, but will be delivered to 
collection points immediately by a specially-appointed delivery person 
accompanied by a senior team leader and a policeman. A receipt for the delivery 
will be issued in triplicate. 

The increased vigilance and controls are intended to stamp out the widespread 
practice of recording inflated amounts when cotton is delivered. 

In an environment where failure can mean summary dismissal, local government is 
held responsible for “meeting the plan” even when external factors such as 
drought or rain make that impossible. Pressure to meet Soviet-style targets 
often prompts local officials to collude in fabricating glowing reports, so 
that the aggregate national production figures may be based on flimsy ground.

According to official reports, Andijan region fell short of its quota by 14 per 
cent last year. 

In a recent media interview, Bahodir Mamajanov of the Andijan regional 
department for agriculture said the presence of a police officer at crop 
delivery points would prevent farmers bribing officials to issue papers showing 
they had fulfilled their quotas.

Meanwhile, Uktam Haidarov, an official from the regional body that coordinates 
“mahallas” or neighbourhood committees – the lowest rung of local government - 
said the mahallas would post a member at every kilometre along the border with 
Kyrgyzstan in an effort to stop smuggling. They will join the thousands of 
police and border guards on what is already a fairly well secured stretch of 
Uzbekistan’s frontier.

Finally, the regional authorities have recruited the senior cleric in Andijan 
to add a spiritual dimension to the all-out campaign, which coincides with the 
Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Nuriddin Khaliknazarov is accompanying 
governor Usmonov on a tour of the region, giving sermons about the value of 
cotton and the virtue of honesty.

Meanwhile, central government has increased the incentives for both pickers and 
farm owners. A decree by Uzbek president Islam Karimov means that this year, 
farms will receive the equivalent of 323 US dollars per ton of first-class 
cotton – still less than a third of the world price which the government will 
earn from exports. Cotton pickers, who were formerly paid the equivalent of 
five to seven US cents for every kilogram they pick, will get a 20 per cent 
increase in wages. 

However, a former director of a cotton-processing plant in Andijan predicted 
that tougher measures and higher purchase prices were unlikely to stop 
smuggling. He says that by moving the cotton into Kyrgyzstan, Uzbeks can get 20 
Kyrgyz soms or 50 US cents per kilogram – several times the money that pickers 
are paid at home. 

The former factory director, who asked not to be named, noted that less cotton 
has been planted in southern Kyrgyzstan than last year, which suggests that 
demand for the Uzbek product will grow.

The former factory director concluded that the financial rewards for smuggling 
cotton are still greater than the risks.

“If you bear in mind that there is corruption among the police and border 
guards, it’s reasonable to assume that there will be no less theft than there 
was last year,” he said.

A former government official who did not want to be identified noted that while 
the world price of cotton has fallen in recent years, the way the industry is 
structured in Uzbekistan means that a small elite will continue to benefit from 
the export trade while paying little heed to farmers who eke out a poor 
existence from the small amount they earn as producers. 

As prices of bread and other wheat products continue to reach record highs in 
Central Asia, the additional hardship this is causing seems likely to add to 
the temptation to defy the authorities and sell cotton abroad.


Thousands earn an income picking wild capers, but this new industry has spawned 
debate about sustainability, fair pay and government regulation.

By Abdumomun Mamaraimov in Jalalabad

A piquant pizza topping might seem an unlikely source of tension in Kyrgyzstan, 
but a debate over caper production exemplifies what can happen when a new 
industry collides with other interests like sustainable development and the 

Capers have always grown wild in southern Kyrgyzstan, but did not really 
feature in the local cuisine. It was Turkish businessmen who spotted the 
potential for reaping the small spicy buds and sending them off to Europe where 
they are pickled and sold as a Mediterranean flavouring. 

The caper industry has burgeoned since it started in Jalalabad a few years ago, 
and thousands of people – mainly women and children – now make a living by 
picking the immature buds – perhaps 30,000 or 40,000 tons every year – for 

While the discovery of foreign demand for a home-grown plant has created a lot 
of employment in the south, there are no regulations governing how much the 
harvesters are paid, as they work freelance.

The pickers receive only a fraction of the eventual price that buyers will pay 
in Western delicatessens, although by local standards the money can be a useful 
supplement to family incomes.

For the last three years, 13-year-old Akyl and his friend Marat have been 
picking wild capers in Jalalabad during the summer holidays.

Last summer, Akyl earned 9,000 soms - over 230 US dollars – in a few months, 
the same as his mother earns in a year working as a cleaner, and enough to 
stock up on food for winter and modest school clothing. This year, he plans to 
earn even more. 

During the harvesting season, which runs from June until October, buds are 
gathered using gourds specially cut into shape and then emptied into old cloth 

The buds are very light, but one picker should be able to gather three or even 
five kilograms a day if he or she works hard, getting up to one dollar per 

“It’s hard work, but it’s better than dragging a handcart at the market, where 
anyone can be rude to you,” said Akyl.

Collecting the buds puts a strain on the back, as the long stalks of the plant 
are spread low over the ground, and the prickly buds are sore on the fingers. 

A woman of 45 explained, “Because you’re constantly bending your back, your 
back hurts, and when you raise your head everything goes black. The doctors say 
I have anaemia,” she said. “But the work not only helps us survive, it lets us 
put our the children through school as well.”

This woman, who did not want to be identified, has a full-time job but has 
found it hard to make ends meet as public-sector wages lag further and further 
behind the rising cost of living.

“I work as a technician at a school, but we don’t work in the summer holidays,” 
she said, wiping the perspiration from her face and smiling in embarrassment. 

Explaining that she earned just 400 soms around 10 dollars a month from her job 
and had to support three young children, she added, “My husband is in Russia, 
but the money he sends us isn’t enough for the family.”

At central collection points in villages and towns in the region, the buds are 
sifted and graded manually sifted out by sorters, who earn 70 or 80 soms - 
around two dollars - a day.

“When we get hired, we’re promised 100 to 150 soms a day if we meet the quota,” 
said 35-year-old Aisuluu Temirova. “But we soon find out that it isn’t easy to 
do that. It’s hard work, but it’s better than no work at all.”

Abdykapar Kayupov is head of Sky, a local firm which buys capers from the 
pickers and sells them on to foreign buyers. 

He said the industry brings in several million dollars a year for Jalalabad 
region alone and has created work for up to 6,000 people there.

Kayupov said it was natural for the retail price in Europe to be ten times 
higher than the money the pickers earned, since by then the product had reached 
“the 15 person in the chain”. He would not reveal how much his firm earned for 
a kilo of capers. 

Although caper picking has become a vital source of income for many, there are 
fears that will prove an unsustainable form of livelihood. As the capers are 
wild rather than cultivated, no investment is made in regenerating plants for 
future years. 

Environmentalist are warning that unregulated and excessive harvesting will 
rapidly deplete stocks and cause wider damage to the ecosystem. 

The thick stems of the caper shrub help keep the soil moist and protect it from 
erosion, they say its destruction could turn the area into a wasteland where 
other plants will refuse to grow. 

Figures from Jalalabad region’s customs service indicate that exports are 
falling – 812 tons of capers were recorded leaving the country last year 
compared with 1,400 tons in 2005. Environmentalists cite this as evidence that 
the plant is dying out.

Rahman Kasymov, chief inspector of the region’s environmental service, said 
unrestricted harvesting was killing the plants off.

“People gather the buds and don’t let the plant blossom and bear fruit,” he 

According to biologist Zikriyo Sarimsakov, the threat of over-picking is very 

“If you gather 40 to 50 per cent of the buds, it isn’t dangerous for the plant, 
but if you pick more than that, the plant may be destroyed,” he said. “People 
usually gather a lot more because no one is controlling the process.”

Kayupov dismissed such claims, saying capers were resilient and so widespread 
that would be extremely hard to wipe them out.

“Capers grow over a vast area, and people don’t manage to harvest them 
completely. In addition, the opened blossoms, flowers and fruit don’t interest 
us. And new buds quickly grow to replace the ones that are picked,” he said.

A Turkish businessman involved in the trade agreed. “This plant is hardy and 
the buds grow back quickly. We’ve been gathering them in Turkey for decades and 
they haven’t died out,” he said, asking not to be named.

Salijan Umarov, an advisor to the Jalalabad city administration, said the 
purchasing firms were reneging on promises they had made to invest in 

“They do not observe these rules, and this may lead to the destruction of a 
unique plant,” he said.

Kasymov said the Turkish businesses that initially encouraged the caper 
industry in southern Kyrgyzstan paid a local “green tax” and also provided tens 
of thousands of seedlings. 

“These firms paid the environmental service one som per kilogram of capers,” he 
said. “We used this money to restore dams, put in new plants, and help people 
who had suffered from natural disasters.”

In 2005, the Kyrgyz authorities abolished the requirement for a license to 
harvest of capers, and the environmental service lost both its income and the 
right to supervise harvesting practices. 

“We used to send our inspectors out and they’d monitor every kilogram of capers 
that was harvested, and the way they were picked. Now we only have the right to 
ensure that the caper pickers keep the area clean,” said Kasymov.

Another ecologist, Kasym Rahmanov, would like to see a moratorium on the caper 
trade – or at least the restoration of the earlier licensing system.

The arguments between the different interest groups extend beyond questions of 
equitable pay and environmental sustainability to allegations of full-scale 

Some environmentalists allege that people in high places are benefiting from 
the lack of regulation 

One official, Nurbek Jeenaliev, who heads the agricultural department in the 
Jalalabad regional government, harbours similar suspicions. 

“The absence of licensing for this kind of business leads to attempts to cover 
up [illicit exports] and thus sows corruption. The customs and tax agencies 
also have an interest, as they can conceal the scale of exports in return for 
bribes,” he said.

But the head of Jalalabad region’s customs service, Abdilaziz Kayupov, denied 
that his officers were taking kickbacks, and added his own counter-allegation 
that environmental groups were simply annoyed at losing out on the income they 
earned when licensing was in place.

“These environmentalists who propose reintroducing licenses for caper picking 
are interested in the money they used to get from the collectors. Now they’re 
trying to prevent people collecting buds that will otherwise go to waste,” he 

The Turkish businessman agreed that the environmentalists had their own reasons 
for opposing the trade.

“Before we arrived, no one was interested in this plant. We’re now turning 
these wild plants into money,” he said. “We pay thousands of people and create 
millions [of dollars] in investment for the region, but all the ecologists and 
forestry workers do is hinder us.” 
Abdumomun Mamaraimov is an independent journalist in southern Kyrgyzstan.



Journalism teachers and students believe new IWPR manual will serve as an 
important training resource in the region.

By Saule Mukhametrakhimova, Central Asia editor.

A Russian-language IWPR conflict reporting training manual has been distributed 
to around 500 media organisations and journalism faculties at universities 
across Central Asia.

The launch of the new title in Bishkek in July, was timed for the start of the 
new academic year.

Teaching staff and journalists alike have welcomed the new publication, a 
Russian translation of a standard IWPR training handbook, Reporting for Change: 
A Handbook for Local Journalists in Crisis Areas

Marina Sivasheva, head of the journalism programme at the American University - 
Central Asia, regards the manual as a valuable contribution to journalism 

“The book is a sound publication that deals not only with journalism but also 
ethical problems. Because of its range of content, it’s useful for anyone who 
works in the media sector. The provision of practical exercises promotes 
discussion in the classroom,” she said.

Svetlana Gafarova, head of the Center of Social Information and Forecasting in 
the city of Osh, which helped distribute the handbook among journalists in 
southern Kyrgyzstan, believes it fills a gap in the training materials 
available for student journalists.

“There is a great variety of content developed mainly for journalists in 
Russia. Manuals of this kind are necessary for us, as they are breath of fresh 
air, assisting both beginners and their more experience colleagues,” she said. 

Gulnura Toralieva, programme director at the Institute for Public Policy in 
Bishkek, said the manual will help journalists write for international 
audiences, “It’s an excellent guide to international journalism for local 

Ravshan Abdullaev, a young journalist from Tajikistan, said she found passages 
of the book dealing with the personal experiences of IWPR journalists 
particularly useful.

“The experience of IWPR journalists who reported from conflict zones is very 
important for us. There was a civil war in Tajikistan and the most terrible 
lack of information. I've read in the new manual that journalists were risking 
their lives to do their work. This book is useful for young journalists, 
because it teaches them how to operate.”

Tajik journalist Nafisa Pisaredjeva, who also writes for IWPR, suggested that 
the publication might in future include a chapter on IWPR trainers’ experience 
of working with Central Asia journalists. “We have something to learn from the 
them and they have something to learn from us,” she said.

**** www.iwpr.net 

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique 
insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists, 
the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly 

The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek, 
Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better 
local and international understanding of the region.

IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The 
service is published online in English and Russian. 

The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and 
do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal 
Chazan; Senior Editor: John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule 
Mukhametrakhimova; Project Director: Kumar Bekbolotov.

IWPR Project Development and Support: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; 
Strategy & Assessment Director: Alan Davis; Chief Programme Officer: Mike Day.

**** www.iwpr.net 

IWPR builds democracy at the frontlines of conflict and change through the 
power of professional journalism. IWPR programs provide intensive hands-on 
training, extensive reporting and publishing, and ambitious initiatives to 
build the capacity of local media. Supporting peace-building, development and 
the rule of law, IWPR gives responsible local media a voice.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting
48 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7831 1030  Fax: +44 (0)20 7831 1050

For further details on this project and other information services and media 
programmes, go to: www.iwpr.net 

ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2007 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting 

**** www.iwpr.net 

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