New planting techniques boost world-famous Kyrgyz rice yields

How the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Kyrgyz smallholder farmers grow more rice and earn more money

The southern highlands of Kyrgyzstan are covered with rice terrains that produce world-famous varieties of rice. Farming techniques are passionately passed on from one generation to another. But old is not always best.

The Southern Highlands of Kyrgyzstan are covered with rice terrains that produce world-famous varieties of rice. Photo: WFP/Elizabeth Zalkind

Davranbek Abdurakhmanov, 58, has been a rice farmer since his early teens. He spent his entire life working with his family on the steep terrains of Uzgen in the southern highlands of Kyrgyzstan.

“I learnt traditional rice growing techniques by observing my father and other farmers,” says Davran. “That was 30 years ago. The way I have been cultivating rice has never changed since.”

Davran-aka has been growing endemic Kyrgyz rice of Devzire variety since his early teens. Photo: WFP/Elizabeth Zalkind

Time to change

Farmers like Davran increasingly feel the burden of outdated and non-efficient growing techniques as rice yields are often low. This is particularly painful in his case since he is not a landowner and is renting his neighbours’ rice fields.

“I have to pay the land rent and for other farming expenses whether I had a good or bad harvest season,” says Davran. “Sometimes the rice harvest is just enough for us to eat; nothing to sell. I struggle to feed my four children.”

Many rice farmers harvested lower rice yields due to outdated cultivation techniques. Photo: WFP/Kyrgyzstan

New techniques, better outcome

WFP, with funding from Korea International Cooperation (KOICA), supported farmers like Davranbek through introducing new cultivation techniques that boost harvest yields while promoting the use of natural fertilizers and climate-sensitive technology. Farmers also receive either food rations or cash transfers to meet their immediate food needs until first harvests.

Davran along with 40 other residents of Uzgen, all identified as poor by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, attended a two-week rice growing training led by a highly experience agronomist. WFP with support from the local Department of Social Development and local authorities, arranged this training and provided premises, materials and equipment for the participants.

Inspired by the first success, Davranbek and other farmers will shift to the new rice planting schemes to generate higher yields and incomes. Photo: WFP/Kyrgyzstan

A simple formula…big success

“The training changed my mindset, the key is bringing innovations, replacing chemicals with organic fertilizers and knowing their proportions. I learned that transplanting rice seedlings into pre-attended terraces and adding of 7 kg of nitrogen fertilizers to each 0.01 ha of cropland I can increase the harvest 3-fold! This is how a small investment can bring significant improvements,”says Davran.

“After the training, I understood that with less effort I can get more rice. And more rice means more money to support my family.”

This year, Davran put his new skills to test by growing Uzgen rice in one of the rice terraces he rented. Inspired by the results, he plans to shift to the new planting scheme next year; tripling his harvest and earning more money for his family.

Learn more about WFP’s work in Kyrgyzstan

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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