School principals forced to become farmers in Uzbekistan

Getting fields ready for the new season ©
Uzbek school principals are taking on the management of abandoned farms, making them responsible not just for children’s education, but also for fulfilling government farming quotas.

Today one could witness the following scenes repeated at banks across a central Uzbekistan province: well-dressed women opening business accounts for farming.

These women are school principals, kindergarten directors, and managers of other public sector organizations forced by the local khokimiat to assume responsibility for local farming establishments.

Putting their normal jobs aside they are getting official stamps, opening accounts, and undersigning grain and cotton quotas that they have been made to promise to bring in at harvest time.

One local resident says that they have no choice but to oblige the khokimiat. Should they refuse the city hall would immediately send a group of controllers to their organization or school where they would undoubtedly find some “violations” which they would be punished for.

When farmers give up, schools pick up the slack

Uzbek farmers are increasingly abandoning farming. After having tried to meet ever stricter government production quotas, they find they are not even barely making a living, instead ending up indebted to the government.

In earlier times farmers were able to at least compensate themselves for losses by using or selling cotton stalks and seeds, but the government has recently started taking away this financial buffer.

In addition, this year many farmers lost their final remaining advantage – a plot of land for personal use where they could grow produce for themselves and their families.

It now seems the government has found a solution to the abandonment of farms – forcing predominantly female public sector managers and school officials to take over their management. These new farmers are responsible for finding seeds, procuring the necessary field machinery, hiring and paying workers, as well as solving numerous other problems associated with day-to-day farming operations.

A Belarus MTZ-80 tractor re-plowing a field ©
“These well-dressed women looked like aliens opening farming accounts at these banks,” says a local farmer.

Schools and students – a ready slave force?

Another farmer boasts that a local school was assigned to his farming enterprise. He planted 20 hectares of cotton and has found out that the school has 40 employees making each employee responsible for a half a hectare of land.

The farmer plans to utilize his newly acquired labor force to perform field works – thinning out plants, weeding, and others jobs – six rounds in total.

Each year he pays about 20 thousand soms per hectare for a single round of field work, 400 thousand soms for the entire 20-hectare field, for a total cost of 2.4 million soms a year.  

“I will be able to save a lot of money,” the farmer continues, “I don’t care if the teachers work themselves or bring the children. Most importantly, I will not have to worry.”

Cotton seeding is in full swing at the moment, even though there have been some delays as many farmers had to re-plow fields due to heavy rainfall and late snow.