From selling wheat to changing lives
A pilot World Food Programme project is empowering local smallholder farmers by helping them to produce wheat — and then buying it off them
All his life, Nuradin Egemberdiev’s produced wheat. His entire family is involved in the processes of growing, collecting, cleaning and selling wheat. The whole family’s income depends on wheat.
Wheat is a staple food in Central Asia — it makes up approximately 20 percent of people’s diets in the Kyrgyz Republic. Typically, wheat is dried and ground to make flour and used to make bread, crackers, pasta, breakfast cereals, and pastries.
Like most smallholder farmers, Nuradin’s income revolves around the wheat season. “My family lives the entire year on the money from the wheat sales. We would have no income until the next harvest season,” he says.
As wheat flour is widely used in everyday diet, wheat-growing is highly competitive in Kyrgyzstan. This makes it difficult to set a good price for wheat in rural areas.
“I am a small farmer and can only afford to rent a small plot of land. Considering the low volume of harvest, buyers are not visiting and instead I have to deliver wheat to milling companies or middlemen, which significantly lowers my earnings,” says Nuradin.
This year he is participating in the pilot Empowering Local Smallholder Farmers (ELSF) project, selling wheat to WFP. The project aims to support thousands of smallholder farmers across the country who face the same challenges as Nuradin.
The ESLF project in the Kyrgyz Republic offers a practical and important opportunity for vulnerable smallholder farmers through food procurement. Overall, the project supports local economic development, national food security, and domestic food production.
WFP selects farmers based on income rates, the number of children in a family and the presence of people with disabilities in families. WFP purchases wheat directly from them and uses it to produce wheat flour for WFP’s food assistance. Before collecting wheat from farmers, it goes through laboratory tests to ensure its acceptable nutritional properties and quality. Purchased wheat is milled in a local mill.
“Every year there is a risk of not being able to sell wheat and having not enough money to pay rent or to feed my family. This year I sold wheat even ahead of time. During the harvest period, I did not have to worry about money, so I felt supported and safe.”
From the very beginning, Nuradin waited eagerly for the project to start and had high hopes for the opportunities it would bring to him, his family and his community. Through the project, he sold his wheat for higher than the market price — he’s already shifted over 100 tons.
The project has allowed vulnerable farmers like Nuradin an opportunity to participate in income-generating activities, to sell his wheat directly to the buyer and to optimize his sale price by not involving a middleman.
Over 800 direct beneficiaries in Osh and Batken provinces have received locally produced food for participating in WFP field projects including the rehabilitation of drinking/irrigation water facilities in border areas of Batken Province and peacebuilding. Such activities directly or indirectly reduced the drivers of conflict over natural resources in multi-ethnic communities and promoted peaceful cross-border economic relations.
Today, WFP continues its efforts to support smallholder farmers in Kyrgyzstan to improve food security and nutrition by improving their income base and increasing their resilience to shocks.