13 October 2021

“In the past when there were collective farms, chemical fertilizers such as saltpetre led to soil disaster,” says Muhtarbek Eshaliev, a Kyrgyz organic farmer. “Our crops did not grow. That was the reason we joined the project to promote organic agriculture in our district.” To reverse the degradation of farmland in rural and mountain areas of Kyrgyzstan, the BIO-KG Federation of Organic Development of Kyrgyzstan has created organic districts based on the ancient Kyrgyz traditions of reciprocity and community-building called shirge zhyar.

While 85 heads of state and government have pledged to take action on alternative food systems in the recent 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, Indigenous peoples and local community groups such as BIO-KG lead the way in their use of traditional, sustainable food production practices that both provide sustenance for populations and protect natural habitats. At the Summit, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and Indigenous leaders, including Myrna Cunningham, highlighted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to food security must be rooted in the scaling up of inclusive and Indigenous efforts.

Smallholder farmers play an important role in sustaining global food production. Research shows that farms of less than two hectares in size produce about a third of total crops and food globally. These small farms allocate more than half of their production to food for people – in contrast to industrial farms that allocate a higher share of their production to feed livestock.

Two of the Equator Prize 2021 winners supported by the Small Grants Programme exemplify scalable strategies to accelerate the transformation of current food systems: BIO-KG, in Kyrgyzstan, and Tropical Forest and Rural Development, in Cameroon. Both demonstrate how to prepare for further changes in climate and weather patterns that directly affect food production. Read the full story here.