turkmenistanTurkmenistan is a Central Asian country, also known as Turkmenia, located on the 1,099-mile long eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. The population is about five million, which makes it the least populated country among the former Soviet republics in the region. Turkmenistan’s capital is Ashgabat. The country is rich in natural gas, oil and coal as well as in rare metals and minerals. Turkmenistan is administratively divided into five provinces (welayatlar), which are sub-divided into districts (etraplar).



The topography of Turkmenistan is mostly flat to rolling sandy desert, with mountains in the south. The extremely dry Karakum Desert covers over 80 percent of the country and is bound by a series of oases watered by a number of rivers. The climate is mostly arid subtropical desert type, with scant rainfall. Temperatures remain very high in some cities.

Turkmenistan is an arid country, and about 96 percent of its agricultural land is desert pasture. Whatever little land is left for cultivation, it is under irrigated agriculture. According to an FAO 2012 report, the agricultural sector represents only 19 percent of GDP in Turkmenistan. Although agricultural reforms involving distribution of land to individual farms and restructuring of large collective farms have been adopted the state still exercises substantial control over the agricultural sector. Peasant associations comprising individual agricultural producers, leaseholders, household plots, and daikhan farms control about 70 percent of the total land area. About 20 percent of the land is under state reserve while the remaining 10 percent is used by non-agricultural operators. The main export crop is cotton, grown on more than half of the cultivable land. Other crops and fruits are wheat, vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes and garlic), sugarcane, apple, dates, pear, alycha, silverberry, apricot, walnut, pistachio, and figs. Silk production (sericulture) is also common. Among livestock, rearing of karakul sheep is widely popular while other animals include cattle, goats, chickens, horses and camel.

Some of the multilateral and bilateral donors that have provided or are providing financial and technical assistance to Turkmenistan are the World Bank, UNDP, FAO, EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), USAID, ADB (Asian Development Bank), Japan, Turkey and Germany.

Key Statistics and Indicators




Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)











Fertilizer consumption (kg per hectare of arable land)



Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)









GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)



Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)










Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)





Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population

Rural population (% of total population)

Agricultural population (% of total population)

Total economically active population

Total economically active population in agriculture

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

    of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of

     total economically active population in agriculture)*


















Sources: The World Bank; *The Crucial Role of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development (theme of the 37th FAO Conference). Gender Team, Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Regional Informal Consultation, Budapest, 3 March 2011)




History of Extension and the Enabling Environment

Since joining the Soviet Union as a socialist republic in 1924, Turkmenistan followed a typical Soviet style farming structure comprising large, state-owned collective farms, thousands of small household plots cultivated by rural families, and a dominant, exportable commercial crop --cotton. Experts in individual agricultural disciplines ran the large farms, and at times delivered technical advice to the household plots operators. There was no established extension service.

Since its independence in 1991, Turkmenistan has been re-structuring its farming sector. At the beginning, irrigated land was distributed among rural families which led to considerable expansion of household plots in terms of number and size. Next, a national program was launched under which land was allocated to independent private farmers who were allowed to pursue commercial agricultural interests. Thereafter, in 1995, previously state-owned collective farms, about 576 in number, with average size of 1,500 to 2,500 hectares, were transformed into Peasant Associations (daikhan berleshik), which were then ordered to parcel out its fields to individual leaseholders who usually were heads of families. These leaseholders cultivate their farms individually but remaining under the umbrella of their respective Peasant Associations. If their performance during a two-year probationary period is found satisfactory, they are awarded full ownership, otherwise they risk having their lease revoked.

Another reform was in the form of peasant farms (daikhan), which are independent family farms operating outside Peasant Associations and enjoying relatively more freedom than the associations which have to follow government orders. In most cases, the land for family farms has been given in the desert areas with the condition that their operators will turn the land into a profitable agricultural venture within two years.

Review of literature on agricultural reforms in Turkmenistan does not find any information on extension and advisory services, a badly needed institution no matter whether public or private or a mixture of both, which in principle should have been established as a part of the reforms. Presently, although one of the main tasks shown for the Ministry of Agriculture under its website is “extension of the achievements of science and the experience of perspective leaseholders, farmers, the training and rendering of consulting service”, it is not clear which organizational unit of the Ministry is responsible for this particular task and how is this task being performed at the field level.

 In line with this, worth mentioning are the following four donor-funded initiatives:

  1. The objective of a USAID-funded project, “Turkmenistan Agricultural Technology (AgTech) Program and Private Sector Development”, is to improve yields and income through education and organization of private agribusinesses involved in livestock.
  2. A meeting of the Strategic Alliance on Developing Agricultural Extension Systems and Agricultural Mechanization Service Structures in Central Asia was held in Berlin in 2012 at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) 2012, organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GlZ). The inter-regional dialogue involved four private partners and four partner countries namely Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.
  3. A European Union-funded project, “Support to Further Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development – Turkmenistan” had three specific objectives, and one of them was to increase the knowledge and experience of farming households and agro-businesses so that they can cope with privatized farming and market economy.
  4.  The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has supported a joint program in collaboration with Ministry of Economy and Development, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Turkmenistan, Union of Entrepreneurs, and some other partners, to promote the private sector development. One of these three components of the program is developing business support infrastructure in rural areas, and this component includes supporting the individualization of agriculture through technical and business assistance to farmers through a range of agricultural extension services.

All the above initiatives apparently aim at introducing the concept of a privatized extension and advisory service in Turkmenistan, which is in line with the government’s National Plan 2020 that proposes the development of a long term strategy for agricultural reform and private sector development. However, what seems to be lacking so far is the introduction of an appropriate government mechanism by donors, that will be required to provide policy guidance, quality assurance, due emphasis on environmental concerns, and coordination among extension and advisory service providers. 


Extension Providers

Major Institutions Providing Extension/Advisory Services

Public Institutions

Ministry of Agriculture

The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the provision of organizational, methodological, analytical and scientific information and consultancy services, and for introducing reforms. One of the technical tasks of the Ministry is the extension of the achievements of science and of the experiences of perspective leaseholders, farmers. The Ministry is also engaged in training and rendering of consulting services. As such, the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for providing public extension services in the country.

There are several agricultural research institutions in Turkmenistan such as Turkmenistan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Research Institute of Agriculture and Water Resources, Research Institute of Cotton Production, Institute of Deserts, Flora and Fauna, Research Institute of Livestock and Veterinary, and Scientific and Technical Center of Biotechnology. However, little is known about their technology dissemination activities, if any.

Turkmenistan also has Turkmen Agricultural University, which offers degree programs in various agricultural disciplines. However, apart from its educational program, no information is available on its contribution to extension.

Non-Public Institutions

Private sector

Although some donor funded projects, such as those mentioned in a previous section, have tried to introduce the concept and modality of private extension and advisory services, no specific institution has emerged as yet as a fee-based service provider.

  • Durnukly Osush (a consulting economic society)
    This consulting organization was established under the joint project, “Local Community Capacity Building and Investment for Sustainable Land Resource Management” (Ministry of Nature/UNDP/GEF/GIZ). The mission of Durnukly Osush is to strengthen the use and dissemination of knowledge and experience in the sphere of agriculture, and capacity building at local level through the involvement of local population in the implementation of modern technologies in irrigated agriculture. The organization, having seven extension staff in 2010, offers a number of technical services, and its main objective is to promote sustainable development in the agriculturally important Sakarchag Etrap (district). In all probability, Durnukly Osush will be involved in future donor-funded projects, and permitting government rules, may eventually provide extension advice to the farmers on fee basis.

Non-governmental organizations

There were no NGOs in the Soviet-era Turkmenistan, but a few national public organizations notably the Women’s Union, Youth Union, and Union of Entrepreneurs from that period continued to function after Turkmenistan gained independence. The Law on Public Associations passed in 1991 formally allowed the establishment of NGOs in the country. A network of three civil society support centers and 24 resource centers and “points” (similar to resource centers but offering limited services) has been established under the USAID-funded Civil Society Support Initiative. NGOs may have a good future in Turkmenistan, but so far there are no NGOs explicitly involved in extension and advisory work.

Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies

There are no independent, conventional farmers-based associations in Turkmenistan. Even Peasant Associations, which parcel out fields to leaseholders for specific period, are bound to follow government orders. A few examples are as follows:

  • Peasant Associations: At the beginning of 2004, Turkmenistan reportedly had 587 location-specific Peasant Associations that served as an umbrella for leaseholder farmers.
  • Association of Producers and Small Enterprises (UIET): Based in the capital city Ashgabat, the Association was a local cooperating partner in a European Union-funded project (2010-2012) under which Austrian Economic Chambers (WIFI) and Hilfswerk Austria provided additional education and training to strengthen small and medium enterprises in Turkmenistan.
  • Garashsyzlyk Farm Association (such associations with different location-specific names are spread throughout Turkmenistan).

All collective farms during the Soviet-era Turkmenistan were operated as producer cooperatives. In April 1992, just after Turkmenistan’s independence, there were 1,500 producer cooperatives in the country. As mentioned earlier, the original structure of collective farms was disbanded and their land was distributed among Peasant Associations who allocated pieces of land to leaseholders. In a way, the present Peasant Associations may be considered as cooperatives that follow government’s orders on further land allocation and farming activities.

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Turkmenistan. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.



Training Options for Extension Professionals

For pre-service education, the only academic institution in Turkmenistan, offering degree programs in agricultural disciplines, is the Turkmen Agricultural University named after S.A. Niyazov, located in the capital city Ashgabat. Extension professionals may explore in-service training opportunities either under donor-funded projects, or they can approach institutions like the Turkmenistan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Research Institute of Agriculture and Water Resources, Research Institute of Cotton Production, Institute of Deserts, Flora and Fauna, Research Institute of Livestock and Veterinary for training in technical subjects.

An in-service training facility is the CLAAS Training Center, established in 2012 at the Turkmen Agricultural University by the German company CLAAS Global Sales. The training center is expected to promote professional development of specialists and enhance production efficiency. CLAAS farm machinery and equipment, such as harvesters and tractors, are well known among Peasant Associations in Turkmenistan.



Info-mediaries and Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

The Ministry of Communication plays main role for the development of ICT in Turkmenistan. The Internet was introduced in the county in 2007. According to the World Bank, in 2011, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Turkmenistan was 68.77. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was only 5.

The National Strategy embedded in the National Plan 2020 of Turkmenistan defines major aims and objectives, main principles, regulations and trends of Home Policy regarding the dissemination of informative, communicational technologies in the country. A USAID funded project, Promotion of Information and Communication Technology in Turkmenistan (PICTT), is assisting the country in ITC application for improving higher education. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESC) organized a seminar on information and communication technology policy and legal issues from 13 to 14 June 2012 at Ashgabat. The seminar was attended by Turkmenistan’s senior policy-makers such as deputy ministers, chairmen, deputy directors and secretaries from various ministries and institutions.

Some public institutions like the National Academy of Science have already taken necessary steps for embracing ICT as a tool for greater economic development. The Ministry of Agriculture intends to design a web-based unified national network for agricultural information and advisory services (Agro-Net), as well as an ICT-based management information system (MIS). Till the writing of this summary, there is no evidence of ICTs being applied to extension and advisory services.




Resources and References

Agayev, A. 2001. Turkmenistan

Andreasen, R.J.2004. Future farmers of Turkmenistan: A multi-functional agricultural youth organization. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of AIAEE 2004, held at Dublin, Ireland; Pp. 706-711.

ADB. 2007. Overview of NGOs and Civil Society: Turkmenistan. Manila: Asian Development Bank.

Baig, M.B. and F. Aldosari. 2013. Agricultural extension in Asia: Constraints and options for improvement. The Journal of Animal & Plant Sciences 23 (2); 2013; Pp. 619-632.

CACAARI (no date). Key Issues in Agricultural Research for Development in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research Institutions

Gluhih, R., M. Schwartz, and Z. Lerman. 2010. Land reform in Turkmenistan: Does it work? International Business & Economics Research Journal, Volume 2, Number 2 (2010), Pp. 93-104.

Lerman, Z., D. Prikhodko, I. Punda, D. Sedik, E. Serova, and J. Swinnen.2012. Turkmenistan: Agricultural Sector Review; Rome: Investment Center, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (prepared in collaboration with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development).

Lerman, Z. and I. Stanchin.2003. New Contract Arrangements in Turkmen Agriculture: Impacts on Productivity and Rural Incomes. Discussion Paper No. 11.03. The Center for Agricultural Economic Research, Department of Agricultural Economics and Management, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

National Technical Information Service. 1993. Turkmenistan: An Economic Profile. Springfield, Virginia.

Research Institute of the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Science. 2004. The First National Report about the State of the Farming Animals Genetic Resources in Turkmenistan. Turkmenmallary, the Joint-Stock Companies Association of Turkmenistan.

Sager, B. and S. Verma. 1998. Developing and field testing design parameters for customizing agricultural extension education systems in developing countries. Research paper from the 14th Annual Meeting of the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education, Tucson, Arizona, USA; April 16-18, 1998.

UNDP (no date). Addressing Climate Change Risks to Farming Systems in Turkmenistan at National and Community Level. Profile of the project for the period 2012-2016.

UNDP . 2010. Concept Note: Rural Development Program in Turkmenistan for 2010-2015

World Bank. 2007. Integrating Environment into Agriculture and Forestry: Progress and Prospects in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Volume II. Turkmenistan Country Review. Washington, DC: The World Bank.


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