Unrest in Kyrgyzstan rattles country, Fairtrade farmers

23 July 2010

The Bio Farmers Cooperative, a Fairtrade certified cotton producer since 2008, represents more than 1,000 small organic farmers in three districts of the Jalalabat region in southern Kyrgyzstan. Recently, violence and unrest shattered the peace in this agricultural center. FLO staff recently received information on the situation from Janibek Borkoshev, executive director of the cooperative.

The year 2010 began with political unrest throughout the country and on April 7 the president was overthrown in a bloody revolution. In June after the coup, ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks erupted in Osh city and two days later the violence shifted to the neighboring town of Jalal-Abad.

An estimated 2,000 people were killed and thousands more wounded. More than 100,000 ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz citizens became refugees in neighboring Uzbekistan and about 300,000 people were internally displaced.

During the outbreaks, members of the Bio Farmers Cooperative, like many in the region, could not leave their homes to tend their fields, irrigation was stopped and many lost their crops. The cooperative was directly affected by the violence.

Nurmatali Karaev, an inspector who had worked with the cooperative for seven years, was killed during the conflict in June. He was a consultant for nearly 100 organic farmers in a village called Akman in the Jalalabad region. Two other farmers from the village Beshikjon in the Suzak region were also seriously wounded.

In Jalalabat, the office of the Bio Farmers Cooperative was forced to close for several weeks and Yuldashbay Ulmasov, an inspector with the cooperative, was feeding nearly 100 displaced people at his home. And in another village, cooperative farmers of both nationalities worked together to protect their village from looting and arson. As the violence subsides, the cooperative is busily working to adapt its strategy and activities toward reconciliation among its Uzbek and Kyrgyz members.

Given the current situation, Fairtrade and organic inspections have been postponed. A certification audit is scheduled for September to add beans and medicinal herbs to the cooperative’s Fairtrade certified offerings. Income from these two products will bring much needed funds to the farming families there.

Read more about the situation in Kyrgyzstan here:

"Kyrgyzstan holds referendum amid civil war fears," Guardian

"Global effort key to Kyrgyz stability," UPI

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