Creating Jobs, Growing Food in Tajikistan
Farming in Tajikistan employs around 75% of the total population, but yields so little that rural residents are in a constant struggle to make ends meet. Making matters worse are recent bad weather, outbursts of locusts and poor connections with regional markets.
Food insecurity and staggering unemployment levels have become significant concerns in rural Tajikistan. To help alleviate the situation, a project funded by the European Union and administered by the World Bank created temporary jobs repairing irrigation and drainage infrastructure in parts of Khatlon region.
The Public Employment Project for Sustainable Agriculture Water Management hired 10,321 rural residents and farmers—much more than the 6,950 projected—and rehabilitated over 1,500 km of irrigation and 200 km of drainage systems in the region, while creating a number of direct and indirect social benefits.
Households in small communities, or “jamoats,” benefitted from temporary jobs and effective water management. Ultimately, the extra income meant workers could stay in Tajikistan rather than migrating abroad. And in turn, it meant more food.
According to Rahimjon Abdunazarov, a farmer from the Vakhsh district of Khatlon, who participated in the irrigation rehabilitation works, proper water use is the key to life.
Abdunazarov said: “We have always had water, but it is due to rehabilitated and improved irrigation that now we can grow diversified produce several times a season, and use the income earned from the rehabilitation work to purchase more seeds as necessary. I also used some of the income I earned to buy a calf for my household.”
Another resident of the Vakhsh district used his earnings to take care of his extended family, consisting of 15 people. Despite his old age, Grandpa Khol, as the community refers to him, takes pride in having participated in the hard, manual repair work alongside his grandsons.
“When the heads of the jamoats offered us to work and the chance to earn income to benefit our community, we have readily agreed. Grandpa Khol said with a proud smile.
“It has almost been a year since the rehabilitation work started. During that time we earned money and were able to pay for my grandson’s wedding, and improve his and our livelihoods. Now, we do not need to buy produce from the stores as much, since we have enough for ourselves, and to sell,” he adds right before showing off his wheat and mung bean reserves.
Because drainage is so much better, farmland is more productive, too. And increased yields benefit everyone.
In recent years, the role of women in rural areas has dramatically changed. Because so many men have left to find work abroad, women now make up the majority of the rural workforce and are also head of households.
The project hired women to work repairing canals too, and Ruzigul Ziyoyeva, a single mother of 5, can now afford to buy her son, Samandar, school supplies.
“Samandar, be a good boy, pay attention in class, stay focused, and make your mother proud,” says Ziyoyeva to her son as he leaves for school.
Samandar responds: “Don’t worry, Mom. I got this,” and she is reassured because she is doing her best to provide for her son’s education.
Indeed, the priority for rural folk has always been their families, their land and their produce. By providing small but direct benefits to each household, the project’s overall objective is to improve the well being of rural jamoats and communities of the Khatlon region.