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Biothreat Reduction and Economic Development: The Case of Animal Husbandry in Central Asia.

2015 Dec 23;3:270. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2015.00270. eCollection 2015.

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  • 1Department of Geography, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida , Gainesville, FL , USA.
  • 2Department of Geography, Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida , Gainesville, FL , USA.


Improving human welfare is a critical global concern, but not always easy to achieve. Complications in this regard have been faced by the states of the Former Soviet Union, where socialist-style economic institutions have disappeared, and the transition to a market economy has been slow in coming. Lack of capital, ethnic conflict, and political instability have at times undermined the institutional reform that would be necessary to enable economic efficiency and development. Nowhere are such challenges more pronounced than in the new nation states of central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Here, a severe climate limits agriculture, and industrialization has been inhibited by lack of infrastructure, low levels of human capital, and a scarcity of financial resources. These conditions are aggravated by the fact that the central Asian states are landlocked, far from centers of market demand and capital availability. Despite these daunting barriers, development potential does exist, and the goal of the paper is to consider central Asia's pastoral economy, with a focus on Kazakhstan, which stands poised to become a regional growth pole. The article pursues its goal as follows. It first addresses the biothreat situation to central Asian livestock herds, the most significant existing impediment to realizing the full market potential of the region's animal products. Next, it provides an outline of interventions that can reduce risk levels for key biothreats impacting central Asia, namely foot and mouth disease (FMD), which greatly impacts livestock and prohibits export, and Brucellosis, a bacterial zoonosis with high incidence in both humans and livestock in the region. Included is an important success story involving the FMD eradication programs in Brazil, which enabled an export boom in beef. After this comes a description of the epidemiological situation in Kazakhstan; here, the article considers the role of wildlife in acting as a possible disease reservoir, which presents a conservation issue for the Kazakhstani case. This is followed by a discussion of the role of science in threat reduction, particularly with respect to the potential offered by geospatial technologies to improve our epidemiological knowledge base. The article concludes with an assessment of the research that would be necessary to identify feasible pathways to develop the economic potential of central Asian livestock production as changes in policy are implemented and livestock health improves.


biothreats; central Asia; conservation of natural resources; economic development; geospatial analysis
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