Kyrgyzstan, where a bag of flour on loan goes a long way

One woman’s unconventional business plan helped her start a business the success of which is beyond her dreams.

Elizabeth Zalkind
Mar 7, 2019 · 4 min read

Tossing lavash, a traditional flat bread, over a saj, a Turkish-style oven located in the corner of her home-based bakery, Mavliuda recalls her first business experience. She was overcome with fear of failure mixed with the determination to save her seven children from hunger and despair.

Mavliuda’s intuitive business plan

In 2016, Mavliuda and several other women in Blagoveschenka, one of the Kyrgyz Republic’s remote communities, formed a self-help group and joined a project WFP is implementing jointly with sister agencies to help women like her develop a business plan based on their own ideas and skills.

“My business plan was really simple. I went to a local shop and begged a vendor to lend me 5 kg of wheat flour.”

Through the the Rural Women Economic Empowerment (RWEE) Project they learnt a lot about business planning, market analysis and leadership training, among other skills.

“My business plan was really simple. I went to a local shop and begged a vendor to lend me 5 kg of wheat flour in order to start a home-based bakery. I wouldn’t dare to ask such a favour if I were alone, but I felt the encouragement of my friends who accompanied me there for support.

“My heart was broken as my children were watching me bake the lavash, and I had to tell them they can only eat it the next day.”

The following day, Mavliuda sold her lavash, repaid her debt to the shop owner and again requested more wheat flour as a loan. By working hard day after day, she was able to build a successful baking business that now produces 1,500 to 2,000 lavash each day.

Mavliuda’s lavash going far and beyond

What began with a loan of 5 kg of wheat flour and tears of fear and desperation has now turned into a growing family business as Mavliuda’s lavash are sold far beyond her own community, in Suzak, Jalal-Abad, Osh, Toktogul and beyond. She is now buying over 2,500 kg wheat flour per month to keep up with demand.

Based on her her initial success, the local cooperative of the RWEE project was able to support Mavliuda with a small grant to purchase another oven.

Mavliuda and her oldest daughter cook all the lavash in their family’s bakery late in the night so that Mavliuda’s husband can start selling it by as early as 5 am. By 8 am, all the products are usually sold out.

“I bake normal lavash and cheese lavash. Food vendors buy my lavash for their wraps and shawarma,” she says.

New business, new life, new plans

When community members look at a now energetic and self-confident Mavliuda negotiating with vendors or running to call her self-help group for a meeting, they no longer see the desperate mother of seven from two years ago.

“We used to think that only men can support the family while women only saw their role as keeping the household and raising children. So when your husband cannot earn anything for the family, the whole family suffers.”

The economics of Mavliuda’s traditional family situation are changing as she develops her leadership and business skills.

“We are now thinking about baking cakes, pastries and opening a confectionery shop and café. We also plan to construct a parking space for four vehicles for the comfort of our visitors. I learnt that any business must be simple, sustainable and client-oriented for success and stability. I learnt all of this in order to support my family.”

Learn more about WFP’s work in Kyrgyzstan.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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