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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics

FSN Forum Team

Dear FSN Moderator,

Please find below a submission for the recent "Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics".

Best Regards,

Bert Cramer


Bert Cramer

Main responsible entity
Public Fund ‘Arysh’ / Общественное объединение "Арыш" (

2015 – Present

Funding source
DanishChurch Aid Central Asia (DCA CA) (at present); local community funding

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

As Kyrgyzstan, a small, mountainous country in the heart of Central Asia continues to go through demographic, economic, and environmental upheaval following the collapse of the USSR, more and more people continue to move from rural areas to the booming informal settlements around the capital city of Bishkek. However, Bishkek’s informal settlements are increasingly becoming a way-station for people of working age to pursue labor migration to Kazakhstan and Russia, leaving the elderly and young behind. Dependent on remittances and unreliably small pension, the elderly of Bishkek’s informal settlements face significant economic and social hardship which is compounded by their structural isolation from meaningful social services.

High on the list of challenges the elderly of the informal settlements face is access to healthy and affordable food.  In this situation Arysh, a community-based organization with a long history of social mobilization and advocacy in the informal settlements, has stepped up to assist their nation’s neglected community elders. Using an innovative whole-of-community approach, Arysh brings together youth and elders to engage in community gardening through peri-urban agriculture and animal husbandry. Not only does this link disparate generations through meaningful labor, but also provides a source of readily available and locally produced food for both consumption and sale at bazaars. Additionally, by encouraging knowledge sharing between the rural elders to their young, urban counterparts, Arysh maintains traditional knowledge which would otherwise be lost. Underpinning these processess is Arysh’s longstanding advocacy with political and governmental structures for land-rights recognition of those who dwell in the informal settlements (

Based on the success of their initial work in community agriculture (; DCA provided  Arysh additional funds to expand their resilience building throughout the informal settlements.

- Reduce food insecurity and provide livelihoods generation through community agriculture
-  Through community agricultural practices, foster inter-generational understanding and solidarity, which in turn builds community resilience

Key characteristics of the experience/process
- intentional community building; recognizing the value of overlooked or structurally marginalized people’s knowledge, experiences, and practices; fostering learning

Key actors involved and their role
Public Fund ‘Arysh’: community organization, fund raising, and provision of technical expertise

Key changes observed with regards to food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture and food systems
Proximal changes: The former rural elderly living in Bishkek’s informal settlements now have immediate access to fresh, seasonal food stuffs which supplements and improves their diet which was formerly restricted to pension facilitated purchases. By engaging born-urban youth from the informal settlements in community agricultural practices, traditional smallholder agricultural practices are passed down through generations.

Distal:  Repeated harvests coupled with seasonal celebrations ( help to ensure larger awareness of the importance of community food security and agricultural- cultural practices. Reaffirming ‘traditional’ knowledge in a contemporary environment of rapid change and climate/economic/political/food insecurity builds broader community resilience.

Challenges faced
- Funding for community level food security interventions and long-term programming remains meager. While communities are sometimes able to raise funds through their own community savings groups, larger structural barriers (land tenure; community mobilization in socially isolated areas; cheap, subsidized food-stuffs with poor nutritional content; labor-market competition for unpaid community agricultural labor; etc.) to instilling broader community food security remain.
-Both international donor funding and national government priorities tend to focus on large-scale industrial agricultural practices. However effective macro-industrial agriculture may be in providing basic carbohydrate requirements, it does not meet the needs of varied and healthy diets based on fresh and locally available food. As a result, community practices which increase food security are ignored and neglected in policy  decision making practices.

Lessons/Key messages
Food security/sovereignty is not a new or outside imposed concept: self-sustaining communities have been practicing techniques to ensure community food security for countless years. However, in the face of large scale political and economic structural upheaval, traditional practices which ensure food security risk being lost when placed in a ‘marketplace of ideas’ where modernizing and capital-technology intensive logic prevails. By supporting the adaptation of traditional knowledge and practices to contemporary life and linking disparate urban and rural generations, community integrity and food security can be bolstered and larger community resilience encouraged.