From the farm to the school table

Although the pilot programme in Kyrgyzstan only serves 29 schools, its success could serve as a model for other initiatives across the country.

Regular and healthy meals are essential for children to ensure they can have the energy they need to grow, learn and play. ©SIFI/Rustem Ilyasov

Since 2006, school-provided meals have been one of Kyrgyzstan’s strategies for fighting food insecurity. The main beneficiaries have traditionally been the students, who receive a hot breakfast each day. But now, a FAO pilot programme is exploring how this scheme can improve the lives of smallholder farmers as well.

Although farmers make up over a quarter of Kyrgyzstan’s workforce, many of them face barriers to growth and development. Individual farmers have trouble meeting the volume that some contracts demand, and they may lack the resources necessary to obtain certificates of quality for their produce. Not having a contract, combined with poor storage facilities, means that smallholder farmers have to spend more time finding buyers – and then sell their produce in a flooded market. “In the fall, the prices for produce drop,” says farmer Azamat Boskebaev, who grows vegetables, grain and clover. “That means losses for the farmer.”

At the same time, some schools are struggling to find the steady supply of quality produce they need to feed their children. Between 2016-2017 alone, schools within the Kemin District needed an estimated 9.2 tonnes of potatoes, 4.2 tonnes of carrots and 2.6 tonnes of onions – not to mention additional cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, beets and garlic. “We do not have warehouses at the school, so we have to buy produce little by little,” says Galina Shakun, principal of a school in Kemin.

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