GFAR blog

A spoonful of gold, anyone?


“I am not a cow!”, – I was proudly informed by one of my Kyrgyz colleagues several year ago, refusing the offered salad. “Neither am I,” – I answered, chewing on.

Traditional Kyrgyz cuisine consists, almost exclusively, of bread, milk, and meat – boiled and fried in different combinations. Kyrgyz people proudly claim that they are the second largest meat-eaters after wolves.

This was certainly true and perfectly reasonable during nomadic livestock-keeping days of the nation. But is it something to keep and cherish now?

About 18% of Kyrgyzstan’s children under 5 years old are chronically malnourished – on average they only get two thirds of the needed nutrients and calories. This leads to stunting, low intellectual development, high mortality rates and chronic heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and anemia in later life.

The highest rate of child malnutrition – around 30% – is observed in children from the Talas province, which is, ironically, the cradle of the “white gold” of Talas valley – kidney beans.

Over 90,000 tons of different bean varieties are produced in Talas, but while farmers have learned to rely on the beans to make a living, they do not see it as food.

But 2016 might just be the right year to turn the malnutrition tide around by reaching out for a spoonful of our own highly acclaimed quality product. It has been declared “the International Year of Pulses” by the United Nations according to Mrs. Dupouy at the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Central Asia and the Caucasus..

The price of kidney beans offered to Talas farmers has fallen by 75% over the last couple of years due to a complex combination of geopolitical and internal factors that are unlikely to change in the near future. “With 1 kg of white gold costing only 40 cents, we cannot even cover the return on our investment and labor,” – admitted Talas farmer during their protests earlier this year.

While this cannot be considered good news from the economic point of view, we can still invest in improved health and happiness for our children.

So let me ask again: “A spoonful of gold, anyone?”


Blogpost by Tatiana Vedeneva, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – talve(at)

Picture courtesy of cookbookman17 on Flickr (

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Central Asia and the Caucasus. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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