The local Information Agency “Jahon” reported that Uzbek silkworm farmers have prepared 26.2 Thousand tons of cocoons and successfully completed the “contractual obligation” to the state for 2016. According to the official report, the procurement price for cocoons has increased to 11%.

A study conducted by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF) in 2015 showed that the production of cocoons is a non-profit business, and imposed by the state to farmers under the threat of land loss. Local authorities also forced public institutions to grow silkworm cocoons and to pass a certain amount of cocoon crop to the state.

UGF has conducted a series of interviews to determine whether the situation has changed in 2016. For this purpose, UGF presents an interview, conducted on June 7, 2016, with the director of the second school in one of the villages of Uzbekistan. Place of residence and name of the respondent are withheld for security reasons.

School director:

I have been working as a school principal for 30 years. I must say that I’m used to all kinds of state orders imposed on the school.

At the beginning of this year, we school principals were appealed to the district khokimiyat (administration). The khokim (head of district administration) himself talked to us, he said that every school would be given land to grow cotton and grain.

He added that it was for our own good. In all previous years, the school staff went to different areas to clean the cotton fields of weeds. Now that the school will have its own farm, the teacher will know exactly where to go to. It is also good because the profits from cotton and grain can be used for the school’s infrastructure.

It is in our interest to make sure that our farm is profitable, said the khokim. Another benefit for the school is that the land is likely to be located near the school and the teachers do not have to travel far to the field, as it was before.

The khokim also said that the school directors may formally appoint a person as head of the farming such as their wife, husband, brother or anyone else. But the responsibility for everything will lie with the school. Including the responsibility for timely execution of the assigned plan for grain, cotton, silk.

Thus, all the district schools have received land to build up a farm. My school got 42 hectares next to our school. This was really an advantage, emphasized the khokim. However, to set up a new farm is troublesome and a costly affair: It was necessary to prepare the field. Then, to get permission from the police to stamp and seal. This also costs money. It is necessary to go twice to the regional printing house: the first day to order, the second day to get permission to seal and stamp.

But the chairman of the regional Chamber of Entrepreneurs provided help. He offered me to work on all the documents to establish the farm including seal and stamp if I paid 500.000 Soums.

He had to write the statute of the farm, get the khokim’s signature and the approval of the khokimiyat. Then it was necessary to go to the notary with the statute and have the copies certified. And for all these official and unofficial costs, they had to pay 500 thousand Soums to the Chamber of Entrepreneurs. Plus another 200.000 Soums to give to their employees who will be engaged in organizational work. We agreed that I pay him 700 thousand Soums in total.

When he brought the statute, I went to the bank, invested two minimum salaries in order to open an account. So, with the cost of about one million soum, I registered a new farm. My younger brother became the formal head of this farm. I asked another school principals, they spent exactly the same costs.

Our farm covers an area of 42 hectares in total: 25 hectares were planted with autumn grain. 17 ha are left for cotton. I had to plow the field very urgently. The previous farmer of the land knew that he would leave, therefore had not plowed field. So I had to deal with the plowing. I paid for all the expenses out of my own pockets. I had to sell my livestock: I sold one good cash cow for 3 million soum. From this money, 1 million Soums I gave for opening the farm. Another 850,000 Soums –I spent for plowing. And the rest was saved for the costs of planting cotton. The school does not have any agriculture technology. I will have to hire some and pay for all the services in cash…

At the end of April, the season of the cocoon cultivation started. It turned out that our farm should grow two boxes of caterpillars and deliver 84 kg of cocoons. 2 kg per hectare.

This was also the high point for the cotton weeding. I divided the 17 hectares of land among my employees. At the school meeting, we all decided that each of the 25 employees, without exception, should bear some of the costs. So we divided the 17 hectares of cotton land, each got 70 acres of land. At the meeting we agreed that each would be responsible for a portion of the season: weeding, cleaning of weeds, collecting, etc. The headteacher of the school was appointed as person in charge. My part of the land worked by my wife and son.

Now I had to engage in the cultivation of cocoons. I looked through the different options. I was told that growing two caterpillar boxes would cost me one million soum. I was told that the grown caterpillars would also mean hard work: We would need people, would need mulberry trees, of which only a few exist around our village. I was told, I could buy cocoons from the local silkworm store or from people who grow and sell cocoons to those farmers who do not grow by themselves.

And so it happened. The first 47 kg I bought from a farmer who charged a surplus of 9000 Soums per 1 kg. The other 20 kg I bought from a farmer in the procurement centers for 7000 Soums. To get the rest of the missing weight, I paid the head of the reception cocoons center. 10 000 Soums per 1 kg. He promised to pay the surplus from other farmers and fulfill my plan. He immediately issued a receipt for me as I handed over 84 kg of cocoons.

So, concerning the cocoons, I have made it!

Now it is necessary to fulfill the plan for grain and cotton.

By the way, the weeding cost me almost nothing. My school staff understood the responsibility and everyone deals with their portion of land. Some sent their children to weed, others hired workers to do this. It does not matter to me. The most important thing is that the deal was done.

Which organization and at what price draw and print the stamp silk cocoons?

The district Office of cocoons took it. I think the price was about 5,000 Soums per 1 kg.

Was it compulsory to grow cocoons?

Yes. I’ve been the director of the same school now for 30 years. I try not to start an argument, neither with the government administration nor with my employees. All the farmers were obliged to grow cocoons.

What would happen if you refused?

Well, they would find some reason and fire me. I would make myself the enemy of hokim, the chief of the district police, the prosecutor and the head of the regional department of public education.

Is it possible to profit from the cultivation of cocoons?

For me, the cocoons meant continuous costs. I do not cultivate, I bought the cocoons because I had to pass the plan imposed on me. I freed my staff from the hard work and hassle of breeding silkworms. To thank me for this, they took the weeding of our cotton farm.

How did the administration or other officials participate in the implementation of the plan to deliver the cocoons?

The khokimiyat distributes the seeds for caterpillars, controls how the plan is being carried out. When the season begins, almost every night at 22.00, farmers who were unable to fulfill the plan for cocoon delivery were convened by the administration, they had a tough talk, they were told to fulfill the plan. The khokimiyat would not let the farmer go easily if it does not get the cocoons.

Do you know other organizations that are engaged in the cultivation of silkworms by the order of authorities?

All farmers have to grow cocoons by the order of the authorities. I know nobody who is willing to do this job. Villagers specially cultivated cocoons to sell them to farmers. Therefore, at meetings at the khomimiyat, farmers who do not fulfill the plan are given an address of such and such a woman who sells cocoons at a certain price. Officials say: „Go, find money and carry out the cocoon plan today.”