More than 60 percent of the population of Kyrgyzstan lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for a livelihood. Most of the farms are small and are run by individual farmers who have been identified as vulnerable groups for poverty. Women make up for 30 percent of the economically active population in agriculture.
In 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with the financial support of the Government of Switzerland started the implementation of a project in Issyk-Kul region with a special focus on rural women. The main objective of the project was to support the development of agriculture in the Issyk-Kul region through improving the technical capacity of farmers, especially rural women.
The project was implemented in the Ton and Tyup districts of the Issyk-Kul region; each of the districts included five villages with a total estimate of more than 2000 beneficiaries. The project facilitated the establishment of two Associations of self-help groups (SHG) with total number of members 400, including 114 males and 286 females. These SHGs are covering all aspects of self-employment and are strengthening the capacity building. Organization of the rural poor into self-help groups helps them to plan activities, build up infrastructure, technology, credit and marketing.
The main aim of the project was to disseminate knowledge and impart skills on improved crop and livestock management, including promotion of conservation agriculture, diversification of cropping systems to produce more fodder and production of feed – silage and silos to increase milk yield and further development of dairy farming.
“Within this project our lives have changed. We managed to improve the livelihoods and change our social life in the village,” – said Taaryndyk Abdyldaeva, woman farmer from Temir-Kanat village, Ton rayon.
A large number of activities, such as farmer field schools, business planning training, the establishment and running the Revolving Fund and many other capacity building activities were held within the framework of the project. The project also facilitated the cooperation between the seed farms with the small-scale famers for growing maize, fodder beet and other fodder crops. Today, the project participants actively apply the knowledge and are happy to share them with new people who want to join the ongoing activities. It is important to mention that self-help groups have collected certain amount of funds that is used, as a community fund upon needs of poor farmers.
It is worth noting that the financial support provided by the Government of Switzerland made it possible to procure and deliver key field equipment to the Associations. The equipment is used in feed cultivation, to help ensure sustainable results from the assistance. Moreover, the heifers were provided to young families and produced calves which were then distributed to other members of the Associations.
Women make a critical contribution to agriculture and rural economic activities in all developing regions. Expanding women's access to land, livestock, education, finance, information services, technology and employment in rural areas would improve the livelihood of families and provide additional benefits in terms of agricultural production, food security, economic growth and social welfare.