Our Story

For many years in Kyrgyzstan, shyrdak production was traditionally for household use. A large, ornate shyrdak was the pride of a household, but in the past few decades, the traditional method of shyrdak making began to become lost among the younger generations of women.

That was until the winter of 1996, when a group of women in the Naryn Oblast of Kyrgyzstan realized that making traditional carpets could become a viable method for creating jobs and income for women in the rural areas of the region. These women had the needed skills and they had the will to work hard, but they lacked business and marketing experience. So that spring, the group began receiving assistance and training from the Helvetas Agro-project, the predecessor of the Rural Advisory Services in Naryn.

Soon they had their first sales exhibition and they had a terrific response from clients in Bishkek. Their feedback encouraged the group to introduce new colors and patterns into their repertoire, as well as emphasizing the need for quality management in production. These adjustments led to increased sales in the bi-annual exhibitions, and in the summer of 1997, the group produced 100 small shyrdaks for export, confirming that a market for their goods existed outside of Kyrgyzstan.

Encouraged by their success, the women set about improving their skills. In the autumn of 1997, more than 100 women attended sewing training in Kochkor. As the group grew, and the members increased their skill, it became clear that a formal organization was necessary. In the spring of 1998, more than 200 women formed Altyn Kol, an NGO with the aim of generating income by producing and selling felt carpets and defending the interests of private felt carpet producers.