A smiling man presenting a bushel of peaches growing on a peach tree.

Teaching Modern Methods in Tajikistan .

Farmers in Tajikistan are improving their livelihoods by learning about and applying modern agricultural methods to their fruit orchards.

Tajikistan is a country known for its rugged terrain. Mountains make up the majority of the landscape, and the people who have lived there for centuries have learned how to make do with limited resources. Despite the lack of arable land, agriculture accounts for 75 percent of employment opportunities.

Atokhuja Muslimov is one of the many Tajiks who have struggled to support their families. With a wife and nine children, Mr. Muslimov’s job as an agronomist at the local water resources department, a position that paid $150 each month, was not enough to make ends meet. For 35 years, he worked in his fruit orchard to supplement his income.

“My family is big. It was quite challenging to ensure their good livelihood with the income I had from work in the water department,” Mr. Muslimov explains. “I was permanently looking for additional earning[s] and was in need of money.”

Unfortunately, modern orchard techniques are not widely known in Tajikistan, and often farmers aren’t maximizing the amount of food their orchards could be producing. For instance, some farmers allow their trees to continue to grow without pruning them, mistakenly thinking that the taller the tree, the more fruit it will yield. Because of this, trees often grow too tall to reach, and food gets wasted. Even when farmers prune their trees, they sometimes do so in the wrong season.

In Mr. Muslimov’s case, his trees had grown so tall that they were unmanageable. His apple yields gradually declined in quality and quantity. By 2015, the net income from his apple trees was only about $500.

Hoping to increase his apple yields and improve his livelihood, Mr. Muslimov took a field-based training course that was provided through USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative. Tajikistan is one of 19 countries included in this effort to fight global hunger, food insecurity, and poverty.

As part of the Feed the Future initiative, the Tajikistan Agriculture and Water Activity (TAWA) addresses dietary deficiencies and improves the production of and access to fresh and processed vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and water. The activity is targeting 12 districts in the Khatlon province because of the high rates of malnutrition and poverty in that region.

With TAWA’s support, international and local experts are collaborating with public, private, and nonprofit sector partners through training-of-trainers programs. Through these programs, partners provide farmers with in-field demonstrations and better access to information, skills, and technology. Partners range from the Tajikistan Ministry of Agriculture to the Tajikistan Nutrition Sensitive Vegetable Technologies Project to MASHAV, which is Israel’s international development agency.


pruning brigades educating other farmers and stakeholders about innovative practices in managing their orchards

Once local governments and community leaders began inviting farmers to training courses, news about these courses spread to other community members. Mr. Muslimov and 60 other farmers from the Khatlon province took a five-month course to learn about modern practices for managing their orchards. The course covered topics like fertilization, pest management, and storage. Farmers learned about these new approaches through in-field demonstrations conducted by eight international volunteers and local orchard specialists.

Farmers who attended these training courses said that they looked forward to adopting these innovative practices in their own orchards. Participants were also eager to share their new knowledge and skills with others. Since December 2015, 60 pruning brigades composed of local farmers have been actively educating other farmers and stakeholders in the community about innovative practices in managing their orchards. Members were selected based on their experience, education, and willingness to attend the training courses.

Since attending the course, Mr. Muslimov says that his new knowledge and skills have resulted in much better yields from his orchard. In addition to managing his own orchard, he is now sharing his new skills with others. Today, Mr. Muslimov works as a consultant at the Water User Association, teaching other farmers in the community about best practices for increasing the quality and productivity of their orchards.

“Live and learn — it is the principle of my life! Although I have worked as an agronomist for more than 25 years, I learned so much from this training program. I never knew that pruning will refresh a tree, give it new life, and generate improved harvests.”

Atokhuja Muslimov, Tajik farmer and agronomist

From February to March 2016, he provided orchard management consultations, which included pruning more than 1,000 fruit trees and grafting 1,600 fruit saplings for other farmers. Mr. Muslimov earned $300 through his services — increasing his monthly income by 200 percent.

Excited about the prospects of his new profession as an orchard management specialist, which will help him better provide for his family, Mr. Muslimov expressed his gratitude through an old proverb: “Live and learn — it is the principle of my life! Although I have worked as an agronomist for more than 25 years, I learned so much from this training program. I never knew that pruning will refresh a tree, give it new life, and generate improved harvests.”