Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia, and its rural areas are particularly hit hard by poverty. Agricultural productivity is very low, with farming being responsible for only 21% of the GDP despite employing 46.5% of the population. Around 90% of agricultural households are small subsistence farmers.
The Tajikistan Agriculture Commercialisation Project helps Tajik farmers exploit the full potential of their land. The project is funded by the International Development Association and employs technical assistance from NIRAS through a project management unit.
Subsistence farmers can gain much by moving away from low-value, stable crops and instead tapping into the potential of a few profitable value chains. The project therefore aims to strengthen six profitable value chains: apricots, lemons, apples/pears, tomatoes, grapes, and milk. Fruit have been favoured, as they are suitable for small-scale production and have export potential. They also mature early and have a unique flavour due to Tajikistan’s favourable agroecological conditions.
Tajikistan is already a major exporter of apricots, but it mostly relies on the Russian market where the apricots are sold cheaply because of their low quality and traceability.
Taking advantage of the considerable export opportunities for high-value crops and food products made in Tajikistan, the project supports entrepreneurial efforts to increase productivity, commerce, and employment opportunities in rural regions of Tajikistan.
Improved Harvesting Practices Lead to Better Quality
If Tajikistan diversifies its export offsets, it can become less dependent on Russian and similar markets. The project therefore works on improving quality, traceability, and hygiene to meet global certification standards. One example of the project’s training and technical assistance is the effort to strengthen harvesting and post-harvesting practices.
An old harvest technique among apricot farmers has been to beat branches with sticks to get the fruits down, a process that damages the fruit. Through the project, groups of farmers have been taught gentler picking methods and informed of the benefits to drying the fruit in wooden trays in shelters instead of on the roads, which prevents contact with dirt and dust after picking.
New Technology and Knowledge
The project impacts positively on all actors in the value chain, working closely with processors and exporters in product certification, branding, and promotion at trade fairs.
Furthermore, a commercial grant program enables groups of small farmers to access improved technology. The new technology, in combination with newly gained knowledge, has increased agricultural production quantities, the fruits’ quality, and earnings all along the value chains.