(24 June 2014, Bishkek Kyrgyzstan) More than 60 percent of people in Kyrgyzstan live in rural areas and depend mainly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Some 75 percent of arable land is under private control and accounts for more than 80 percent of the country’s agricultural output. Yet, modern technologies for growing crops still are not well known, trained experts are scarce, and there is a lack of up-to-date equipment and communication infrastructure.
FAO is now providing support to improve the know-how of farmers and agriculture and extension specialists in modern crop and pest management techniques. Since August 2013, some 20 Farmer Field Schools have been set up in seven villages across two different rayons of Chui province. The field schools are part of an FAO technical cooperation project entitled “Development of farmer field schools to promote modern crop management and pest control technologies.”
In each case, pilot fields are identified, trainers and facilitators selected and training sessions conducted on advanced soil management, integrated pest management, and other important aspects of cultivating crops.
The two-year project with a budget of USD 400,000 focuses on training and education for farmers, including women, and for government extension personnel. Through it, FAO is promoting the adoption in Kyrgyzstan of conservation agriculture and integrated pest management techniques.
Farmer field school trainers and facilitators met last week on a pilot field in Budenovka village, for a training workshop on the use of: modern knapsack sprayers and protective clothing for pesticide application, and sub-soilers and disk grass movers for residue management. Full application of conservation agriculture also involves use of no-till drill, to be supplied soon. Equipment is provided under the FAO project.
Farmer field schools have proven effective as a form of adult education, based on the concept that farmers learn optimally from field observation and experimentation. To facilitate learning, trainers or leaders are chosen in each farmer field school. The leaders are people living in the same village, cultivating their plots side-by-side with the other farmers. Together, field school participants search for the best ways to address problems using practical knowledge obtained through the project.
The Government of Kyrgyzstan has expressed growing concern over the loss of cropland due to soil degradation under ineffective traditional management. In mountain areas where soil resources are already scarce, these losses are unacceptable.
Confronted with pests and diseases that seriously damage crop yields, Kyrgyz farms continue to rely on chemical pesticides, based on the widespread belief that there is no other solution. There is limited awareness of alternative pest management strategies, such as cultural and biological control methods and the use of pest-resistant crop varieties. The FAO project aims to gradually incorporate innovative approaches such as integrated pest management and conservation agriculture.
The project also represents a step forward for technical cooperation among researchers, extension specialists, farmers and NGOs. Exchange of practical experiences among the participants will tap farmers’ understanding of local ecosystems and facilitate adaptation of the new techniques to local conditions.