Ak-Jalga was founded in 1964. Today, it is the largest dairy processing facility in the Issyk-Kul Region, processing up to 100 tons of milk per day. Ak-Jalga owes much of its success to its current director, Kuluipa Dzhuzumalieva. She arrived at Ak-Jalga as a 23-year-old dairy production engineer and technologist and grew Ak-Jalga into a successful business with national distribution.
“I have been working at Ak-Jalga since 1969. We have been through turbulent times. There were a few times when we thought of shutting down.”— Kuluipa Dzhuzumalieva, Director of Ak-Jalga and partner of the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Al-Jalga shifted to land cultivation to retain its staff. The facility later grew wheat and baked bread. Then, in 1998, Al-Jalga entered the world of dairy processing and began collecting milk from local farmers. Today, Ak-Jalga collects milk from 7,000 small-scale farms and households in the Issyk-Kul Region and works closely with milkers, milk collectors, and transporters to ensure a reliable, safe, and high-quality milk supply. Ak-Jalga also provides training on dairy farm management and animal care to help farmers improve their milk quality.
“The high quality of milk is essential for cheesemaking,” Dzhuzumalieva said. “We demand the highest quality of milk from our farmers.”
New Approaches to Cheesemaking
Currently, the factory processes an average of 70 tons of raw milk per day and exports up to 70 percent to Russia and Kazakhstan. However, growing domestic demand from large retailers has Ak-Jalga focusing on expanding its range of products for the local market.
To meet this goal, Ak-Jalga needed additional investment. The factory partnered with the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, to upgrade its production process. USAID provided new modern equipment for cheese production and storage. Ak-Jalga invested in additional equipment and a new laboratory to ensure the high-quality and safety of products and compliance with the international standards. Thanks to the modern equipment procured with USAID support, Ak-Jalga has started producing two new varieties of cheese and will introduce melted and string cheese to its range soon.
Connecting Local People to Local Jobs
Mahabat Kenenbaeva is one of Ak-Jalga’s local milk suppliers. Every day she milks her cows and provides 15 liters of milk to Ak-Jalga. In November 2020, Kenenbaeva joined Ak-Jalga as an employee.
“For 11 years, I have worked as a nurse with low wages,” she said. “I even worked in Russia for nine months. Even though the pay in Russia was much better, I had to return home because of family circumstances.”
Kenenbaeva now earns double what she used to earn at a hospital. Ak-Jalga employees also receive benefits in the form of groceries at discounted prices.
“At Ak-Jalga I receive good pay. I can now afford to pay my daughter’s university tuition fees in Bishkek. Ak-Jalga feeds families in the Issyk-Kul Region.”— Mahabat Kenenbaeva, Ak-Jalga employee
Providing Hundreds of New Jobs
Ak-Jalga currently employs 126 full-time employees and 36 milk collectors. With USAID support, Ak-Jalga will create an additional 50 full-time jobs and 600 seasonal jobs. The factory will also connect an additional 400 dairy farmers to the supply chain.
Over the next two years, through projects like the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project, USAID aims to create 19,000 new jobs in various economic sectors in the country. USAID is identifying entrepreneurs like Dzhuzumalieva and investing in their businesses so that they can become more efficient and continue to naturally empower Kyrgyzstani families.
Learn more about the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project.
Learn more abut our work in Kyrgyzstan.