Radio Ozodlik spoke with farmers from the Pap district of the Namangan region, who reported that the local authorities had ordered the destruction of their crop of vegetables and melons, in order to free the land for cotton planting. According to the farmers, several of them who had spent all their money on planting vegetables on their land was left without a means of income.

A farmer who asked not to be named and was interviewed by Ozodlik on April 20, reported that he had sowed ten out of 100 hectares of vegetables and melons and that the hokimiyat sent an order to plow the field and destroy the plants planted on these ten hectares.

“We are in the low-water zone and have to pump water. We paid for the pump with our own money. I gave the tractor driver who works on my land two hectares to plant melons and watermelons. The cadastral document states that ten hectares of land is allocated for vegetables. Despite this, a tractor arrived and plowed the field where the vegetables had just begun to turn green. I spent 20 million soum on these lands. Now they tell me that I must plant cotton on these ten hectares.”

Another farmer told Ozodlik that the order to destroy the crops of vegetables was a gross violation of the president’s decision:

“…I told the head of the agriculture department that the decision of the president was hanging on his door. The decision states that if farmers have more than a hundred hectares and if he has fulfilled the plan, then he should be allocated 10% of the land for sowing vegetables and melons. This statement is hanging on the door when you enter the office. But they did not listen.”

According to the farmer, the dehkans (farm laborers – Ed.) who work on his land expressed strong objections:

“There was a big uproar and shouts of anger. The women lay down in front of the tractor, demanding that it stopped the plowing. The police officers removed the women from the fields by force. Dozens of families of seasonal workers who came from another village built a hut and toiled on these lands. Now they are in distress. Each of them has invested 15-20 million soum on this leased land. They have done it every year. The quota for cotton and grain (production – Ed.) was fulfilled with a surplus. Their salary was in the form of watermelons and melons. Now I have neither workers nor a tractor driver. Farmers begged the hokimiyat to fulfill the cotton plan and not to destroy the vegetables, but the leaders ignored them.”

One farmer, who came from the village of Olmos in the Chust district with his family and sowed melon on the farmer’s land, told Ozodlik that he was in a very difficult situation.

“Other than agriculture, we are not able to do anything else. Every year, from a village 40 kilometers away, 20-30 families with children come here to work on farms. We built a hut on the field and live here. We agreed with the farmer to take 1-2 hectares of land for vegetables and melons and, in lieu of payment, we take care of the cotton and grain harvest. The melons we grow ripened first in Namangan. Now our other melons are just sprouting from the soil. We asked the management not to destroy our fields. We agreed to conclude a contract and give part of the harvest to the state or deposit money from the first harvest, but they did not allow us. They said they needed hectares to sow cotton. But there is no water – cotton cannot be grown. We are simple dehkans. We have never been against state policy, but we have been ruined.”

Ozodlik was told by an employee working in the agriculture department of the Chust district, who asked not to be named, that local hokims are sabotaging the president’s instructions on food security in order to fulfill the cotton plan:

“Cotton planting on 10,300 hectares of land is planned in the Pap District. But the deputy hokim responsible for agriculture in the Pap district, Tokhir Rapikov, requires the planting of cotton on an additional 3,000 hectares. There is an instruction of the president that if the cotton yield is less than 15 centners [Ed. – 1,500 kg], then cotton should not be sown. But contrary to the words of the president, and in order to make sure they can fulfill the plan, they order the growing of cotton on lands intended for vegetables and melons. They bring law enforcement officers and ruthlessly plow the fields where vegetables and melons have just begun to grow.”

When Ozodlik called Ikrom Akhmadaliev, the head of the agricultural department of the Pap district, to request a comment, he hung up as soon as he heard the journalist’s question.