3 june 2020

Central Asia news

The Uzbek authorities forbid hired hands to seek jobs in Kyrgyzstan

17.10.2007 11:05 msk

Azimjan Askarov

Ferghana Valley Uzbekistan

Authorities of the Uzbek border districts forbid the locals to hire out to work cotton fields in Kyrgyzstan nearby. It costs Uzbeks their usual income and leaves Kyrgyz farmers without cheap workforce they need to harvest the crop.

Uzbekistan has proclaimed all cotton harvested already while the Kyrgyzes just across the border are only beginning to harvest it. Farmers from the Bazarkorgon district (Jalalabad region) set out to visit Uzbekistan a short while ago to hire cotton-pickers there - just as they had been doing for years. They were informed on the border, however, that Pakhtaabad district administration had issued a special ban to prevent the locals from working cotton fields in Kyrgyzstan.

"Always in need of hired hands, Kyrgyz farmers traditionally find them in Uzbekistan," a local farmer said on the conditions of anonymity. "We pay them daily. We ferry them right to the fields from the border and back. There have never been any quarrels between farmers and Uzbek hired hands, financial or otherwise..."

The matter concerns the hired hands working cotton fields in Kyrgyzstan. Official reports notwithstanding, unemployment level in Uzbekistan amounts to 20% according to some estimates and as much as 30% in the Ferghana region. Groups of hired hands known as mardikors are encountered in absolutely all Uzbek townships and cities. Willing to work everywhere and at whatever the pay, they flank Uzbek highways waiting for prospective employers.

A hired hand is paid $3-4 a day in Uzbekistan and $7-8 (250 soms) in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz farmers even provide hot meals for their workers.

Governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan signed a visa-free travel agreement that permits citizens of these two countries 60-day stay on the territory of the adjacent state.

Kyrgyzes say in the meantime that 2007 turned out to be a good year for cotton growing. Lots of local farmers have been hiring Uzbek hands since spring. Well, it seems to be history now. "Keeping the people away from us, they will only accomplish two things: the yield here will be wasted, and our neighbors will remain without a source of income," farmers say.

Kyrgyz employers and sources in the Andijan and Ferghana regions of Uzbekistan say that some Uzbeks defy the ban and continue working cotton fields in Kyrgyzstan. The local authorities exact revenge by leaving their households without power and gas. Representatives of the hokimijats (local administrations) assigned to every border checkpoint keep tabs on everyone crossing the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border.