Livestock Value Chain Assessment - Assessment of the Resource Base for the Development of the Meat Production Value Chain

Introduction:  Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world that traditionally is dependent on the oil, minerals and natural gases for its economic growth after it became independent from the Soviet era. Over the last few years, the government has increasingly emphasized the importance of agriculture in insuring food security for its people and for its economic diversity. The country has the world's sixth largest pasture resources, with grazing lands occupying 188 million hectares and 70% of them being in arid regions of the country.  
Historically, they are the driving force in the country's economy as a source of feedstuffs, food, fuel, medicinal herbs but are largely under-utilized since the collapse of the Soviet system. The government has recently adopted a new comprehensive program promoting the country’s livestock development, focused on its beef cattle and sheep breeding industries, and related value chain components. This ambitious program places family farms with 100-200 heads of cattle and/or 500-600 sheep as the core element of the industry’s development. By 2027, the program targets to create 500,000 new workplaces and to generate $2.5 billion in terms of beef and lamb export revenue, with $5 billion worth of livestock assets. The program also targets to structurally develop human capital in rural areas and to considerably raise labor productivity along the livestock value chain. 
The program is, however, still in a preliminary form especially due to a lack of quality data used to prepare its initial estimates and absence of an appropriate analysis of similar schemes adopted in other countries providing relevant lessons from international experience. Moreover, given Kazakhstan’s vast grazing land and its pronounced territorial diversity, combined with the relatively limited development of beef cattle breeding and other livestock value chains, the program needs to be properly strengthened and phased to ensure its effective implementation based on feedback provided by selected pilot regions.   
It is recognized that the success of these programs also relies on the availability of water resources, which are largely formed and accumulated in the mountains outside of the country. According to the studies (e.g., Kokorin, 2008 and Fay et al., 2010), climate change will exacerbate the already severe water shortage in Kazakhstan. The increase in winter precipitation will be more than compensated by the decrease in summer precipitation and higher temperatures. The river flow will reduce by 20% over the next 50 years, which will exacerbate the sustainability of water management. Given the trend in climate change in Central Asia, Kazakhstan will face milder reduction of river flow that could affect the program implementation and sustainability.  
Previous studies also suggest that the Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan, is prone to desertification resulting from overgrazing and increased climate variability. It is estimated that the total area of degraded pastureland is more than 48 million hectares (26% of the total grazing acreage). As shown in several studies, the key economic consequences of over gazing is a decline in livestock productivity, leading to reduced livestock profitability and export capacity. Eventually, such a situation will lead to a stagnation in the development of the food industry and decline in tax revenues from agricultural and service manufacturing industries. 
Unfortunately, the patterns of change in the texture and chemical composition of soil, growth and development of crops and yields, and productivity of grazing lands for Kazakhstan has not been well documented. The lack of reliable data on land cover of grazing lands and related water resources does not allow for the identification of the major challenges and the means to address the challenges. Kazakhstan livestock industry must address nutritional deficiencies during the grazing period to optimize productivity. The decline in nutritional value of forages is due to the declining health of the rangelands. Rangelands in poor condition have low forage potential due to reduction of species composition, increase in invasive weeds and poisonous plants that typically have reduced feed nutrient density. Studies have shown that the average yield of grazing lands has been reduced by 1.8 times on degraded grasslands of the dry steppe; by 2.2 times in semi-desert areas; and by 2.8 times in desert areas, with the protein content in the fodder declining, respectively, by 18%; 23%; and 34% in the degraded areas.  
The key economic consequence of irrational use of grazing lands is a reduction in the grass stand yields, resulting in reduced livestock numbers, livestock profitability, and export capacity of agriculture. Stagnation of the food industry will result, and tax revenues from the agricultural and manufacturing industries will decline. The economic losses resulting from the non-rational use of pasture areas in Kazakhstan are currently estimated at $700 million per year. This especially affects development of small, medium agribusiness in livestock. 
Objectives:   It is the objective of this proposed effort to offer technical assistance, through capacity building and on-site training effort, to the scientists and decision makers of Kazakhstan to allow them to holistically assess pasture land carrying capacities, considering not only the forage production but also water, soil, climate and basic infrastructures for a sustainable livestock production system.