The partnership with Planeterra allows Ak Orgo to create much-needed livelihood opportunities in Barskoon through tourism and handicraft production. As tourism continues to grow in Kyrgyzstan, Ak Orgo is now set up to be able to capture more of the market and grow their social enterprise. Tourism allows Ak Orgo to further its work in preserving traditional Kyrgyz craft techniques through innovating new technology and training young artists. Since the partnership began, Ak Orgo has been able to provide salaries to its employees on a regular basis. In the past, many worked for passion, but now they can support their families. The majority of employees at Ak Orgo are women.
Kyrgyzstan is the second poorest economy in Central Asia. The economy went into a deep recession after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and some of the effects are still felt today. Located in Barskoon, a community suffering from 80% unemployment, this workshop provides the opportunity for much-needed livelihoods in the craft and tourism sector.
The preservation of traditional Kyrgyz crafts is at the heart of the Ak Orgo craft workshop in Barskoon village. Decreasing demand for the labour-intensive felt products used to decorate yurts had led Ak Orgo on a mission to innovate new ways to make traditional crafts that are efficient yet true to the culture.
Ak Orgo’s purpose is creating and preserving traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts while generating livelihood opportunities in the community. The founder of Ak Orgo, Mekenbek, is working to create innovative solutions that make traditional crafts easier to produce, encouraging the younger generation to engage in the art. Ak Orgo is a social enterprise that has only recently started working in tourism.
Planeterra supported Ak Orgo with a grant to build a kitchen and a washroom to better serve travellers. Planeterra also worked through a local training organization, the Association of Social Entrepreneurs Kyrgyzstan, to develop business and marketing skills for the Ak Orgo team to help them better achieve their social goals through tourism.