Legal assistance for Kyrgyz farmers: More law – less poverty

Project completed

Thanks to land reform, many Kyrgyz farmers have their own, albeit small, piece of land. To be able to subsist from agriculture, farmers lease and buy additional land. This leads to legal disputes regarding access to water and mountain pastureland. The local non-governmental organisation "Legal Assistance for Rural Citizens" (LARC) helps farmers and other rural groups to claim and protect their rights.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kyrgyzstan
Governance
Legal and judicial development
01.01.2011 - 31.12.2014
CHF 1'800'000

Women in rural Kyrgyzstan are often disadvantaged and find it particularly difficult to protect their rights. This was also the fate of Kimiya Abdullaeva, a single mother with three children who lives in the southern Kyrgyzstan village of Torutai. Her ex-husband had bribed the local authorities to deny Kimiya the ownership rights to her land and to assign it all to him. Abdullaeva was unable to defend herself against this injustice on her own and finally approached the NGO LARC for legal assistance. The court case on her behalf ended in a verdict in her favour: from now on, Kimiya’s ex-husband has to share the land with her as well as pay her compensation for his illegal use of the land for several years. Kimiya is relieved: "Now we can grow wheat and vegetables for our own use and for selling. This land is the foundation for my children’s welfare."

Promoting acceptance of the law
Kimiya’s case is typical of LARC's work. Every year, this non-governmental organisation helps to settle more than 5,000 legal disputes of this kind over land and other agricultural development issues. The lawyers instructed by LARC work out of their head office in Bishkek as well as 12 local offices throughout Kyrgyzstan, effectively providing all rural inhabitants with professional, independent and low-cost legal assistance.

LARC grew out of an SDC project and has been an independent Kyrgyz NGO since 2003. The last three-year SDC-supported phase started in January 2011 and the SDC will reduce its contribution steadily until 2013. At the same time, the share of the financing provided by LARC itself is growing. Other and additional services are also offered, and the rural population is becoming increasingly willing and able to pay for these services. LARC is also receiving more work and mandates from organisations and the private sector which enables it to continue helping the poorest strata of the population.

Strengthening independent administration of justice
Besides individual services for the rural populace (legal consultations, issue and checking of documents, representation of clients both inside and outside the courts), LARC also tries to raise awareness by holding regular information events and round tables on controversial points of law, and supports interest groups and the parliament when new laws are being drafted. By strengthening the awareness of law and the independence of the judiciary, LARC contributes to good governance, the fight against corruption and respect for human rights. Respect for and trust in the legal system are in turn a pre-requisite for social and political stability and for Kyrgyzstan's economic development.