Our road to achieving SDG2 with food security

July 28, 2021

Can you tell us what is the situation with ensuring food security in Kyrgyzstan as a whole?

Food security is often talked about but it is not always clear what we mean. For FAO, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how ill-prepared we are globally to withstand such a severe shock and why it is so important that we do not delay in making people food secure. This is why food security is a priority area for the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. For our part, FAO, as a UN organization, supports the government in its efforts to achieve food security through the development of agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries, livestock and poultry farming.

On the first component of food security – access – we must bear in mind that most of the Kyrgyz people live in rural areas and rely on diversified sources of income to survive and for the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and youth, the work is generally informal. As a result, they have less access to resources and income, which negatively effects their food security and nutrition statuses. 

On the second component of food security – safe and nutritious food – according to the FAO research for 2019, every 15th person in Kyrgyzstan suffers from malnutrition, that is, the human diet contains insufficient amounts of nutrients or a person consumes excess amounts of food. Every 14th child under the age of five is overweight, and every 6th adult is obese.

We find that the dietary patterns in the Kyrgyz Republic suggest significant consumption of starchy staples and the under-consumption of healthy fats, vegetables and fruits. FAO will continue to work with the Kyrgyz Government to address these issues in a coordinated and aligned way, seeking double-duty actions that promote healthy and diverse diets, and at the same time tackling the constant issue of undernutrition that is underscored by micronutrient deficiencies.

How does malnutrition affect children especially?

Malnutrition damages a child's physical and cognitive development, especially during the first two years of the child's life. It is largely irreversible, perpetuating illness, poverty and inequality. The negative effect of malnutrition may delay physical growth and the motor development of children; lead to a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) of children, behavioral problems and deficient social skills; and lead to greater susceptibility to diseases.  In developing countries, almost five million children under the age of five die of malnutrition-related causes every year.

Globally, the burden of malnutrition in all its forms remains a challenge. According to current estimates, in 2019, 21.3 % of children under 5 years of age were stunted, 6.9 % wasted and 5.6 % overweight. In Kyrgyzstan, 11.8 % of children under 5 years old are suffering from stunting, 2.0 % suffering from wasting, and 6.9 % of children under 5 years old are suffering from overweight. 

It is important to recognise that preventing malnutrition and addressing its devastating impact on children starts with good maternal health.

Please tell us more about the achievements of SDG 2 in the Kyrgyz Republic.

SDG 2 states our global commitment to attain Zero Hunger – and to quote a past Director-General of FAO, “If we can, we must.” We note from the National Voluntary Review that the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic presented in 2020, that challenges remain in achieving SDG 2. More attention needs to be paid to balanced diets, the reduction of trans-fatty acids; consistent and universal access to clean drinking water and sanitation, remain significant threats to obtaining quality nutrition. 

In its turn, FAO possesses experience and expertise in supporting policymaking, partnership-building, and projects and programmes built on 3-dimensional sustainability - economic, social and environmental. Both the SDGs and FAO's Strategic Framework are geared towards tackling the root causes of poverty and hunger, building a fairer society and leaving no one behind.

Currently, FAO is implementing 10 national projects and 18 regional and global projects in Kyrgyzstan. The total resources to implement Country Programming Framework for 2018-2022, amounted to USD 56.92 million. All interventions of FAO in Kyrgyzstan are aligned with three key priority areas: to strengthen agricultural, food security and nutrition, social protection and rural development policies, to reduce rural poverty, and for sustainable natural resource management and resilience to climate change and disasters.

What is the number of hungry people in Kyrgyzstan? (As a percentage)

Prevalence of undernourishment in the total population in Kyrgyzstan is 6.4 %, as per the FAO flagship publication, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI). 

Please tell us about the main threats to food security in Kyrgyzstan.

COVID-19: Since March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak effected negatively the global economy including Kyrgyzstan. The pandemic has negatively affected food supply chain operations in the country through the impact on food supply and demand, food availability, access and price stability. The poorest and most vulnerable layers of the population are most affected due to their lower resilience to economic shocks. The situation is exacerbated by decreased migration outflows, reduced inflow of remittances, depreciation of the currency, decrease in household purchasing power, and poor access to agricultural inputs, to name a few. Unfortunately, beyond immediate health concerns, short-, medium- and long-term impacts are expected on food systems and on food security and nutrition. 

Climate related issues – droughts, mud-slides, degradation of land – With more than 40 percent of agricultural land degraded and over 85 percent of the total land area exposed to erosion, and with the increasing volume of rainfall in the spring and autumn falling on hillsides and waterways where protective forest and vegetative cover has been lost, the degradation of natural resource systems due to human activities[1] and unsustainable agricultural practices, will continue to precipitate natural disasters. 

The issues of raising awareness on healthy nutrition remain low among the population, especially in rural areas. FAO and the Government will continue to work with the rural population and farmers, to create awareness about nutrition and take advantage of sustainable agriculture. Women and children in households are vital components of their communities and are targets for training programs related to food safety and nutrition.

This material was developed as part of the Accelerator Program project, with the informational support of the United Nations Development Programme.