In Central Asia, the agriculture sector cannot absorb the rural population, forcing people to migrate in search of jobs and income. Although labor migration has reached unprecedented levels over the past decade, remittances do not always translate into direct rural investment and improved social livelihoods within rural communities. A growing body of evidence exists regarding the dual effect of labor migration on local development and rural families left behind. Diversifying income through improved rural crafts production and overcoming barriers to trade can be cost-effective in creating a significant and sustainable source of income for rural communities. However, challenges also exist, such as the need to improve the quality and competitiveness of local products and adapt them to modern needs. While some crafts from the region have evolved into profitable sectors over the last 20 years, producing items for sale locally, nationally and abroad, other areas still represent a source of untapped potential in terms of creating jobs and generating income. These can grow with just a small investment.
Towards a Solution
The South-South cooperation initiative between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan aims at enabling rural men and women to benefit equally from agri-food value chains by improving the skills of rural women to generate income and enhance the quality of rural products produced with the use of local agricultural raw materials in pilot areas of these two countries. The South-South cooperation initiative mainly included pilot training workshops tailored to the needs of rural women in remote villages of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Rural crafts training was provided by self-made Kyrgyz women entrepreneurs, including well-known designers and a marketing specialist, to selected rural women in each country to improve their skills and promote sales in the local, regional and global markets.
By engaging locally available expertise and using the ‘training of trainers’ (ToT) methodology, the South-South cooperation initiative helped to promote and preserve a great variety of traditional handicraft techniques and motifs. Traditional crafts in both countries are practiced primarily by an ageing population and are in danger of disappearing in the near future. During the initiative, ToT trainers were identified among older rural women who possess traditional craft skills. They were encouraged to transfer their skills and knowledge to the younger generation. ToT trainers were trained to improve product appeal and marketability by combining updated product designs, new colors and higher-quality production with their traditional craft techniques.
The South-South cooperation initiative promoted the use of locally produced raw materials for new craft products. All prototypes of crafts produced during the training workshops were based on the use of agricultural raw materials (including, for example, wool, silk and cotton) produced in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan or in neighboring countries in the region.
Such agricultural raw materials are readily available in local markets and are affordable for local artisans. In this way, the SSC initiative contributes directly to SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production, and in particular, SDG target 12.2 on the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources.
While the first round of training workshops organized in 2017 mainly focused on enhancing the designs of rural crafts and producing competitive craft products, the second round held in 2018 was expanded to provide information on pricing, product promotion and marketing, including the use of ICT as a marketing tool. In particular, the marketing specialist from Kyrgyzstan showed how to take good photos of products by using a mobile phone and how to use social media (such as Facebook and Instagram) to promote their products.This has empowered rural women by strengthening their use of ICT and can help them achieve entrepreneurial success through agricultural innovation.
Over 160 rural women acquired practical knowledge and skills necessary for rural crafts businesses through rural crafts training workshops organized under the South-South cooperation initiative in 2017-18. Based on the knowledge and skills acquired, these women can now launch or pursue their profitable business with more competitive crafts production. In addition, the trainers from Kyrgyzstan developed a training module throughout the workshops, called Rural Crafts Business Basics. The module has been successfully tested in the second round of training workshops in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It could be replicated easily and applied in other villages across the two countries, as well as in other Central Asian countries.
The South-South cooperation initiative was supported by the FAO and non-state stakeholders, in partnership with the Central Asian Crafts Support Association in Kyrgyzstan. In Uzbekistan, in February 2018, the South- South cooperation initiative was further expanded and replicated with the involvement of the Hungarian Folk Artists Associations, with additional support from UNOSSC.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 1.4, 2.3, 4.4, 5.b, 8.2, 12.2
Countries/ territories involved: Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
Supported by: FAO Implementing entities: FAO Project status: Completed Project period: 2017-2018 URL of the practice: N/A
Name: Ms. Dono Abdurazakova, Gender and Social Protection Consultant, FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia
Name: Ms. Serena Y. Park, South-South Cooperation Officer, FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia