WFP supported, through its disaster mitigation projects, restoration of abandoned drainage and irrigation networks. Copyright: WFP/Vladimir Voronin.
Bolot Urbaev is a father of 10 from a small village named Toguz-Bulak. His village is in a swampy isolated corner of Issyk-Kul, which has been neglected by local authorities and relief organizations for years. Every spring Urbaev and over 2,000 other villagers nervously monitor ground water levels, which pose a constant threat to their homes and harvests.
Built in the 1950s, the community’s drainage network has never been comprehensively restored and is easily obstructed by litter, leaves, and overgrowth. In the spring of 2011, the system collapsed and ten houses were flooded; their only source of income, potatoes, was decimated.
When this happened in Urbaev’s village, WFP and the regional emergency department stepped in with a disaster mitigation project. Within just a month, 48 volunteers cleaned up and reinforced over 3,500 meters of the community’s drainage network.
“I was luckier than most, as my house sits higher than others, but I lost my fruit trees and vegetable garden, everything rotted and I was left with no way to feed my 10 children; the youngest is just 12 months old,” explains Urbaev.
His neighbours faced weeks of flooding which forced them to abandon their homes and their belongings.
Natural disasters such as floods, mudflows, and landslides are a regular occurrence in rural Kyrgyzstan. Bringing huge losses to impoverished villages that already struggle to make a living, hundreds of families are made homeless after these events each year. They need assistance to rebuild their homes, lives, and livelihoods as harvests and agricultural assets are usually destroyed. Over time, households lose their ability to recuperate from hardship, placing an even greater strain on communities during the lean seasons when food is most scarce.
To help people keep their families fed until the new harvest comes, WFP provided food commodities to all volunteers who engaged in the cleaning works. No one was happier about the food distribution than Bolot Urbaev, who received 214 kg of fortified wheat flour and 20 litres of vegetable oil in return for his work.
“We all worked very hard and dug out over a thousand rotted tree roots from the drainage canal. We also planted over 30,000 poplars around the village to draw up the extra water from the soil,” Ishenbai Beishenbaev a community leaders explained. “Our rehabilitated drainage system will now work well for at least the next 15 years and our lives will be much easier.”
WFP food security assessments consistently show that one of the main causes of food insecurity in the Kyrgyz Republic is frequent exposure to shocks. Therefore, one of WFP’s priorities is to improve the resilience of local communities to cope with natural disasters through risk mitigation.
In 2011, WFP in close cooperation with the Ministry of Emergencies and UNDP, supported projects in over 120 villages across the country. More than seven thousand volunteers were involved in riverbank reinforcement projects and restoration of bio-drainage systems to prevent flooding, securing roads and settlements as well as slopes and hills prone to mudslides. Thousands more benefited directly from WFP food rations, while people in communities nationwide are reaping the long-term rewards of these improvements – more local produce for sale!