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.