One Village One Product: How a Japanese Idea is Changing Lives and Helping Rural Communities

Women make a variety of handicrafts that appeals to young people and tourists.

In March this year, representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), together with officials from the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), and UNDP specialists from Afghanistan and Tajikistan, visited Kyrgyzstan and Japan to see One Village One Product (OVOP) projects in action, and to meet with beneficiaries.

In Issyk-Kul, Kygyzstan, the delegation met with farmers and rural entrepreneurs and saw first-hand how local products are made, using only local resources. Over a period of nine years, 1500 men and women benefitted from OVOP projects. Their products included foodstuffs such as jam, honey and biscuits, and a variety of handicrafts, designed to appeal to young people and tourists in local and national markets.

One Village One Product (OVOP) is a concept which originated during the 1980s in Oita, Japan. Among the beginners was a group of women who produced home-made biscuits to sell in the local market. The product quickly gained ground in the market, and the women involved learned new skills such as bookkeeping and marketing, and rapidly improved the quality and packaging of their products. They frequently visited local markets and tweaked their products to satisfy the expectations of their customers.  

Highlights:

  • Originated in Japan, One Village One Product (OVOP) is a model based on which people in a village decide on a single product that is unique to their area.
  • With funding from JICA, the OVOP model has been copied in Kyrgyzstan, and most recently through a cross-border project in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
  • In a first-ever successful OVOP pilot in Afghanistan, over 300 local farmers and entrepreneurs produced Nashpati pears and handicrafts, and raised cattle, tripling their income in just two years.

These women, pioneers of the OVOP concept, shared their new skills with fellow women in other villages in Oita, and within a few years, OVOP had spread through most of rural Japan. Through their trade, OVOP entrepreneurs were able to gain access to credit from local banks, which helped them to grow their businesses and increase their income.  

OVOP empowers local women entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan to produce home-made soap and sell them in local markets.

In the past three decades, the OVOP model has been widely copied in developing countries, including Kyrgyzstan, and most recently in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, through LITACA, a cross-border project that empowers local entrepreneurs and farmers living along the Afghan-Tajikistan border, with funding from JICA.

The visiting delegation in March saw many of the reasons why OVOP has continued to be a successful model for rural economic growth in over 30 developing countries. “People in a village decide on a single product that is unique to their area,” said Laura Rio, Chief of Environment and Livelihoods in UNDP Afghanistan. “It is something that they do extremely well, and which others can’t produce to a similar level of quality.”

The delegation also saw how local governments provided loans and credit to farmers and entrepreneurs, and trained them in essential skills to improve product quality and access local and national markets. “One of the secrets of OVOP beneficiaries is that they constantly share knowledge among their groups and with others,” said Ruslan Ziganshin, LITACA project manager in UNDP Tajikistan.

In Afghanistan, UNDP and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development assisted 300 local farmers and entrepreneurs in four villages in the northern Takhar and Kunduz provinces in the production of Nashpati pears and handicrafts, and in raising cattle. “This was a first-ever successful OVOP pilot in Afghanistan,” said Roshan Safi, LITACA Project Manager in Afghanistan. “Over the past two years, income for the average farmer has tripled thanks to their new production and marketing skills.”

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