Tajikistan, located in Central Asia north of Afghanistan, is a poor nation with one of the lowest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) rates (US $600) among the 15 former Soviet republics. Of the country’s total land area, only 6.5 percent is arable – and natural resources remain scarce, which makes unassisted agricultural intensification efforts particularly challenging. An estimated one million Tajik laborers travel out of the country regularly for work, partially due to the lack of income opportunities from agricultural efforts. With a U.S. investment of $300 million since 1993, some social and economic advancements have been made, but the agriculture sector – involving 67 percent of the labor force – continues to be an area in great need of international assistance.
The USAID Productive Agriculture in Tajikistan project seeks to address these agriculture sector needs by offering the tools necessary for better access to quality inputs, greater crop yields and better market linkages. The project is a five-year (2009-2014) project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The project’s various components are implemented by Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA), IFDC, Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA) and E-NOETEC Consulting. The USAID Productive Agriculture project is designed to increase farmers’ productivity of traditional agricultural crops and strengthen the capacity and profitability of private sector agribusinesses.
The Intensify Farm Productivity (IFP) component of the project, implemented by IFDC, is an agricultural intensification program. IFDC is increasing crop production while building market-driven opportunities that improve farmers’ living standards. Through these efforts, the program seeks to increase targeted farmer incomes by an average of 25 percent annually.
Due to the seasonality of crop production, IFDC initiated a rapid IFP program startup in November 2009, focusing on field operations in the provinces of Sughd and western Khatlon as well as districts near the capital of Dushanbe. To adjust for a complex agro-ecosystem, each region involves different strategies, crop production patterns and returns on investment. Targeted crops within the IFP program include apricots, lemons, onions, tomatoes and melons.
IFDC is also conducting public outreach campaigns to increase program awareness among thousands of farmers. These campaigns feature information on improving productivity and income, private sector voucher programs and collaboration with public and private donor projects to leverage previously established resources.
Feed the Future Activities
The project continues the transition of activities to align with USAID’s Feed the Future (FtF) initiative, including strengthening ties with local partners in Khatlon. Non-governmental organization (NGO) partners completed a survey of 1,108 farms in all FtF regions to identify commercial farms eligible to participate in project activities. The project also vetted 29 agro-dealers in FtF regions, identifying eight that meet project criteria.
The project provided training to 384 new farms including direct training on the use of agro-input (fertilizer, improved seeds, crop protection products or CPPs) best practices and showcasing best practice results on demonstration plots at field days. Partner NGOs continue to monitor 377 voucher recipients.
Twenty-nine agro-dealers in 10 FtF districts were assessed to identify viable retail dealer partners. Nine agro-dealers who met initial project criteria were selected to participate in the early onion voucher program and subsequently completed an assessment to determine their financial capacity. Based on this assessment, the project arranged the bulk purchase of agro-inputs by retail dealers. The inputs were distributed in August 2012. Eight wholesale and retail agro-dealers participated in project field days. The project also arranged meetings with two international suppliers of certified agro-inputs – Syngenta, one of the largest seed and CPP providers in the world, and Ruchim, a Moldovan supplier of pheromone traps. In addition, three partner agro-dealers established demonstration plots using agro-inputs purchased at the Osh Agriculture Fair and from international seed supplier Nickerson Zwaan.
Agronomists at partner NGOs continue to monitor 169 apricot voucher recipients with technical support from project specialists. The harvesting of apricots is ongoing and will be completed in the fourth quarter. Once complete, the project will undertake a full assessment of the impact of the voucher program on yield and income of partner farms.
In preparation for a potential early tomato voucher program in Year 4, the project installed an early tomato hothouse demonstration in Bokhtar district. The best practices demonstrated included the use of hybrid seeds from Nickerson Zwaan and Syngenta, complex fertilizer and CPPs. In the third quarter, the project conducted an economic analysis of the demonstration, which showed a 73 percent increase in yield and a 96 percent increase in net income compared with the use of traditional agro-inputs. More than 140 participants attended the open field day and training event, including representatives from 22 farms in FtF regions (Boktar, Yovon, Jomi and Jilikul).
Regarding the early onion crop, the project announced a tender during the third quarter for fertilizer, certified CPPs and protective clothing and received seven bids for fertilizer, five bids for CPPS and six bids for protective clothes. Two wholesalers were selected to provide the agro-inputs, marking an expansion of their operations from the Sughd district into the FtF regions. Bringing wholesalers to the Khatlon region is necessary because no wholesale dealers trading certified agro-inputs were identified in target districts. The project also initiated soil testing in 11 FtF areas to determine the appropriate fertilizer to offer as part of the early onion voucher program. The tests indicated high levels of potassium (K) in the soil. Therefore, a compound fertilizer of nitrogen and phosphorus (NP) was recommended as the best choice for farms in those areas rather than NPK.
In the area of value chain work, surveys will be done in 2013 to identify orchard capacity for the export of fresh apricots. This would allow exporters to serve markets up to three weeks earlier. An international consultant will work with staff on designing the hothouse voucher program. Results of the Sughd process tomatoes voucher program will soon be available, as well as preliminary data from processing partner Badr.
USAID Productive Agriculture in Tajikistan Information
January-March 2010 Newsletter
April-May 2010 Newsletter