Hi there! I am about to embark on my first trip of 2016, and I’m going to be traveling to another new country for me — Kyrgyzstan! Once again, though, I seem to have planned my winter travel a bit poorly, as I am not heading out on a trip that will allow me to exchange DC’s cold, wintry conditions for a warmer jungle or beach-y climate. Nope, instead I appear to be heading from one frozen landscape to another! Maybe next time around we can coordinate this a bit better, and I’ll make this trip in the summer instead of the winter.
I can’t be too picky though, and I travel when a project needs me, so I am preparing to visit ACDI/VOCA’s Agro Horizon Project. This project is a key component of USAID Kyrgyz Republic’s overall economic development program designed to accelerate the growth of diversified and equitable economic growth in the Kyrgyz Republic. The overarching goals of the Agro Horizon Project are to increase productivity and output of a variety of agriculture value chains, increase the availability of nutritious foods, increase employment in the agricultural sector, and increase the market share of crops in the value chains(s) in both domestic and foreign markets. You can learn more about this project here.
A Little About Kyrgyzstan (the Kyrgyz Republic)
Kyrgyzstan is located in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. It is mountainous and sits at the crossroads of many great historical trade routes and civilizations. Settled by Kyrgyz tribes from southern Siberia in the 17th century, it has become an ethnically diverse country with significant minority populations of Uzbeks and Russians. Conflict over rule among independent Kyrgyz, Mongol, Turkic, and Chinese tribes mark Kyrgyzstan’s history until it was incorporated into the Russian Empire. Kyrgyzstan achieved independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the Republic has been marked by several uprisings, including the “Tulip Revolution” in 2005. In 2010, there were clashes between Krygyz and Uzbek ethnic groups, particularly in the south, which contributed to a revolution that forced the sitting president to go into exile. Almazbek Atambayev, who was the Prime Minister at the time, was elected President in November 2011.
The capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek, and the major languages spoken in the country are Krygyz and Russian.
Kyrgyzstan is known for its beautiful mountains and is a popular gateway to many of its neighboring Central Asian countries for tourists who are interested in hiking, skiing, or who are interested in yurts or other aspects of nomadic life.
What Will I Be Doing While I’m There?
As I described above, the Agro Horizon project is focused on increasing agriculture production and employment as well as making nutritious foods more available, thereby improving people’s diets and their nutritional status. The project is currently in its second year, and I’m going out to work with the team on reviewing their progress and updating their gender strategy.
The project works in multiple agriculture value chains — for the layperson, this means a specific crop and the series of steps it goes through from planting to harvesting to eventually being consumed — ranging from maize to berries. Both men and women work as farmers and in many other roles, growing, selling, and eventually consuming these foods. We’re looking at the ways that this project is currently identifying and working with men and women in their different (or similar) roles to make sure that they are both benefiting from the project activities.
We’re also looking at areas where women have faced particular challenges and considering how we can better promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. For example, the project has already conducted gender assessments of agriculture service providers and will be assessing the impact of trade regulations on men and women. Other examples may include helping women achieve better access to financial services such as bank accounts or loans, and ensuring that men and women are trained in the skills they need to develop budgets, track and forecast profits/losses, and negotiate sales of their produce. I will be working with the Agro Horizon team to review current activities, assess recently collected data, and develop an updated plan for the coming year, in addition to setting in place methods for determining whether we are achieving our goals and positively impacting both men and women.
At this time, I’m going to be visiting one of the project offices in Osh, which is in the southern part of the country. I’ll probably also travel to Bishkek to work with the rest of the team while I am in country. I’m not sure if I will get out to the field, but I am hoping to visit some of the farms or cooperatives where we are working. I’m sure that it will be an interesting trip!