Poverty Rate Reduction
The World Bank published an analysis in 2019 of the 15 countries with the greatest poverty rate reduction from 1999-2015. Of those 15 countries, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and The Kyrgyz Republic were the most successful in reducing poverty. While some of these five countries are continuing to reduce their poverty levels, others have recently faced hardships, stagnating their ability to eradicate poverty.

5 Leaders in Poverty Reduction

  1. Tanzania: Tanzania saw a poverty rate reduction of 3.2% from 2000-2011. Moreover, its poverty rate is continuing to reduce as from 2007-2018, the poverty rate fell from 34.4% to 26.4%, and the extreme poverty rate fell from 11.7% to 8%. However, the wealth gap increased during that same time period, with the Gini coefficient rising from 38.5 to 39.5. This uptick in the wealth gap may be due to the fact that education and sanitation have become more accessible in cities but not rural areas. However, despite this increase, Tanzania is persisting in reducing its levels of poverty.
  2. Tajikistan: Tajikistan reduced its poverty levels by 3.1% from 1999-2015. Poverty rates fluctuate in Tajikistan depending on job availability and remittance. However, the poverty rate mostly remains on the decline in Tajikistan, albeit it is slower than in the past. From 2012-2017, the poverty rate fell by 7.5%, but now it is decreasing about 1% per year on average. The poverty rate has been decreasing slower because the remittances that Tajikistan has received have lessened over the past few years. Additionally, COVID-19 has negatively affected the economy, causing more food insecurity. Fortunately, expectations have determined that the country will recover quickly from this downfall.
  3. Chad: Chad experienced a reduced poverty rate of 3.1% from 2003-2011. The projected number of impoverished people in Chad increased from 4.7 million to 6.3 million from 2011-2019. Additionally, Chad ranks last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. The good news is that many nonprofit organizations are working to help decrease the poverty rate in Chad. The World Food Bank has established many support systems and has helped 1.4 million people so far. The International Development Association (IDA) improved learning conditions for over 300,000 elementary school children from 2013-2018. The IDA also provided health support for over 50,000 people from 2014-2018. These are only two examples of organizations that work to improve the quality of life of the people and reduce the poverty rate in Chad.
  4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The DRC reduced its poverty rate by 2.7% from 2005-2011. It remains low on the Human Captial Index with 72% of people living in extreme poverty. Yet, like in Chad, there are many nonprofits working to help reduce the poverty rate in the DRC. For example, the IDA helped 1.8 million people receive health services and provided work support programs for 1 million displaced people through 2018. The United Nations Capital Development Fund has been working in the DRC since 2004 and helps create a more financially inclusive environment. Even though the country has a long way to go, the hard work of these organizations shows a promising future for the DRC.
  5. The Kyrgyz Republic: The Kyrgyz Republic reduced its poverty levels by 2.6% from 2000-2015. The Kyrgyz Republic’s economy has experienced fluctuations since 2010 and remains vulnerable. Many citizens live close to the poverty line. However, the poverty rate in rural areas continues to steadily decline. Like Tajikistan, COVID-19 negatively impacted The Kyrgyz Republic’s economy. On July 30, 2020, the World Bank decided to finance three projects that will help “mitigate the unprecedented health, economic and social challenges caused by the…pandemic.” One of these initiatives includes direct financial help for up to 200,000 poor families. Overall, the Kyrgyz Republic has prevailed in reducing the poverty rate and increasing access to healthcare and education in the past 20 years.

Looking Forward

While some countries have regressed in poverty rate reduction, others continue to decrease poverty rates. However, good news exists even for countries with increased poverty rates. Nonprofits work to provide relief, aid and policy changes that help those in poverty.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, which lies at the heart of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit the population particularly severely. Since many of the country’s citizens rely on remittances that family members send to them from abroad, Tajikistan has been facing economic difficulties for years. Moreover, with the loss of employment that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet. Here is some information about Tajikistan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food Insecurity in Tajikistan

Although the Tajik government has implemented emergency cash payments for public distribution and promised to raise the national wages, the donations of private individuals and the subsidization of food are the solutions that will make the largest difference according to Tajik citizens. As evidenced by the surveys that the World Bank conducted in 2020, the effects of COVID-19 have caused families to cut the size of their meals significantly and for parents to go hungry so that their children may have food to eat for lunch at school the next day. Nearly half of respondents to the World Bank survey reported reducing their food intake to compensate for the increased pressure on finances.

The Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project

Yet amidst all of this misfortune and sorrow, the humanitarians working with the World Bank have helped draft a relief bill called the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project with the government of Tajikistan to provide some support and assistance to the Tajik citizens. The program, which is specifically intended for low-income families, aims to provide immediate and direct solutions to public health challenges by supplying funding for more ICU beds and granting emergency cash transfers to families with toddlers and infants.

Despite these efforts, only 50,000 families who the Targeted Social Assistance Program listed as critically poor were eligible to receive these funds. The resources that charitable organizations can give are finite, and the government of Tajikistan does not have the capacity to offer the level of resources that the country requires for recovery. Among the 9.3 million people within Tajikistan, about 2.5 million individuals still fall below the poverty threshold. In 2019, Tajikistan began experiencing promising economic growth, with contributions from Tajiks abroad allowing the percentage of those in poverty to decrease by several points for the first time in years. However, in this most recent economic crisis, projections have determined that poverty rates will rise again.

Solutions to Help Tajikistan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

So, what can individuals and organizations do to aid Tajikistan during the COVID-19 pandemic? In an article from RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty by Farangis Najibullah, a Tajik woman named Maryam suggested that institutions implement free lunch programs for school children, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more readily treatable in Tajikistan. Providing mid-day meals to young students free of charge would alleviate financial pressures immensely for families during a time of extremely high food insecurity and allow parents to save their money for other necessities.

Additionally, the World Bank predicts that the Tajik economy will experience future growth within the next couple of years, suggesting that there is room for private investors to fund projects and get laborers back to work. Despite the current global conditions, Tajikistan’s surrounding neighbors, China and Russia, may soon rein in an era of recovery that will offer trade opportunities for adjacent economies. Private donors have the power to spark a period of upward mobility in Tajikistan and drastically revitalize the market.

Tajikistan’s potential financial growth, which the World Bank estimates could go up to over 3% in 2022, is beneficial for both the Tajik workers and the investors in the larger sphere of trade, as an increase in international trade would bring Tajikistan out of its economic slump and bring about a reliable source of labor for future endeavors. If these efforts succeed, the government of Tajikistan would be able to make great progress in providing more in-depth public programs, financing social enrichment efforts for families and youth and addressing its international debts, paving the way to a more stable footing for the nation in 2022.

– Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in TajikistanThe Republic of Tajikistan is a Central Asian country landlocked by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Known for its mountainous terrains, Tajikistan was a union in the USSR until its collapse in 1991. The country currently has a population of approximately 9.6 million, with slightly more than 50% being female. Unfortunately, women’s rights in Tajikistan is an issue that manifests itself in various different forms.

Maternal and Child Statistics in Tajikistan

The average fertility rate in Tajikistan is 3.6 births per woman, which is higher than the global 2.5 births. In 2017, maternal mortality stood at around 17 per 100,000 births. Fortunately, this is a significant decrease in deaths compared to 1993 where there were 151 deaths per 100,000 births. The female child mortality in 2018 was approximately 30.6 deaths per 1000 births, which is lower than the male child mortality rate at 38.9 per 1000 births.

Political and Workplace Representation of Women

In Tajikistan, traditional gender roles are upheld, and female political representation is quite uncommon. In 2015, only 19% of parliament seats were held by women. Despite this statistic, female political representation in local government is higher at around 40%. This was not always the case. Before the collapse of the USSR, Tajikistan women saw equal economic and political opportunities as their male counterparts. Through its cessation from the Soviet Union along with civil unrest between 1992 and 1997, strict gender roles have begun to be reinforced in Tajik society. 

Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women

In 2011, Tajikistan had rape rates of 0.6 cases per 100,000 people, and HIV rates in women have been stagnant between the years 1999 and 2018. Moreover, in 2011, it was estimated that there were 48.5 cases of assault per 100,000 people, which reflects one of the most significant women’s rights issues in Tajikistan: Domestic violence.

Women in Tajikistan are frequently subjected to severe domestic violence. According to Amnesty International, “Between a third and a half of women in Tajikistan have experienced physical, psychological or sexual abuse by husbands or other family members.” Through various studies conducted between the years 2017 and 2018, it has been revealed that 26.4% of Tajikistan women experience “lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence.”  Although the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family was put into place in 2013, domestic violence is yet to be criminalized. Thus, cases of abuse often go underreported. The normalization of abuse permeates throughout Tajikistan, and the United Nations has reported that at least “one in five women” in Tajikistan are victims of domestic violence.

Current Economy for Women in Tajikistan

Due to the lack of job opportunities and high poverty rates, many Tajik men seek to find job opportunities in neighboring countries, especially in Russia. In 2010, 16% of Russian migrants were Tajik, and over one million Tajik citizens go to Russia for work reasons. In a 2019 research article by Edward Lemon for the Migration Policy Institute, it was claimed that “the actual number of Tajiks in Russia may be much higher, with as many as 40% working illegally and therefore not appearing within the official statistics.” Moreover, the article reveals that “30% to 40%of Tajik households have at least one member working abroad.”

As men are often the ones traveling for work, women in Tajikistan are left to singlehandedly take care of their household. The China Global Television Network America conducted an interview with Tajik wives in the Dushanbe area of Tajikistan which borders Uzbekistan. Parvina, a mother of four, had been caring for her children by herself ever since her husband left for Russia 2 years ago. Although Parvina receives money from her husband, many other wives do not get any financial support at all. However, because of the lack of males in the country, Tajik women are now able to take on traditionally male roles both in the household or workplace in order to support their families. 

Efforts to Empower Women and Improve Women’s Rights in Tajikistan

While women in Tajikistan often suffer from domestic violence and are not given equal social and political opportunities, things are slowly changing. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has an office in Tajikistan which aids women’s resource centers in the area. According to the OSCE website, these resource centers are “the largest civil society network in Tajikistan promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls to claim their rights and access state services and institutions.” These resource centers offer “free psychological counseling and rehabilitation for women in Tajikistan” who were victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Oxfam International is also an organization that strives to empower Tajik women. Its “Transforming Care Work” aids rural communities in Tajikistan by creating leadership groups for women. This allows women to become financially independent, which can in turn alleviate the high poverty rates the country experiences.

Despite their lack of rights, high domestic abuse rates and lack of economic opportunity, women in Tajikistan are slowly becoming empowered. If the Tajik government began putting more emphasis on the prevention of domestic violence and support for women in politics and the workforce, Tajikistan will continue to improve and become a significantly safer place for women.

– Kelly McGarry

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Children with Disabilities
A staggering amount of children live with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global average of children with disabilities is at 15%. However, in Tajikistan, only 0.8% of the child population lives with disabilities according to UNICEF. Although this may be a small number, UNICEF believes that this official statistic of children with disabilities in Tajikistan may be much lower than than the actual number of children.

One of the main reasons for the lowered report is that the process to have children screened is quite complicated and nonuniform across Tajikistan. Parents must have their children evaluated through the Pedagogical, Medical, Psychological Consultation and Medical, Pedagogical Commissions in order for their children to receive an official diagnosis of having a disability. Furthermore, children with disabilities frequently experience discrimination due to social stigmas and incorrect perceptions about disabilities in general. The children may not receive adequate education due to the lack of resources and training to facilitate children with disabilities. Their families may even abandon or institutionalize them due to poverty and social stigmas. Thus, local and international organizations such as UNICEF, Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities and Association to Aid Refugees Japan have come together to help support vulnerable children.

UNICEF Tajikistan

UNICEF Tajikistan has been working fervently to advocate for children’s rights in Tajikistan so they can live a life free of discrimination and social limitations. The organization supports the children and their families with the proper tools along with working with the government. In 2018, the government put the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into action. That year, it also worked with UNICEF to establish the National Disability Inclusion Campaign.

The campaign works to transform social perceptions and stigmas so that children with disabilities may enjoy rights equal to their counterparts who do not live with disabilities. UNICEF also works with civil society organizations such as the Association of Parents and Children with Disabilities and the National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Tajikistan. Furthermore, it also advocates for community-based rehabilitation so that persons with disabilities may use their skills to their maximum potential and experience full integration into society.

Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities

In Tajikistan, a network of parents has come together to support children with disabilities in Tajikistan by advocating for their rights and inclusion in society along with access to health care and education. The Association gained permission from its local government to build a center for support groups and provide resources for parents of children with disabilities. One of the special projects that the group took was to go around schools in Dushanbe to carry out the “Lessons of Kindness” in classes. These lessons allowed students to learn how to treat and engage with children with disabilities. They learned to value the lives of every individual with or without disabilities. Children with disabilities also lead these lessons, building more confidence and creativity in themselves.

Association to Aid Refugees Japan (AAR Japan)

With the funds received from the Japanese government, Association to Aid Refugees Japan (AAR Japan) works with the Ministry of Education and Science and the Dushanbe City Department of Education to advocate for inclusive education in Japan. AAR Japan works to transform school buildings and provide materials for children with disabilities. It has installed wheelchair ramps and handrails in order to create a disability-friendly building in several Dushanbe schools. Furthermore, it has provided educational materials, equipment and devices to further assist children with disabilities in the classrooms. Along with providing tangible equipment and materials, AAR Japan also holds seminars, training and activities to educate students, teachers and government officials on how to create an inclusive environment for children with disabilities.

The road to having a fully inclusive society for children with disabilities in Tajikistan may still be far ahead, but UNICEF, the Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities and AAR Japan, among many, are working towards seeing that future realized. With the helping hands of these organizations, children are receiving the education and materials they need to succeed, and families are understanding what it means to reverse social stigmas and provide for the needs of their children.

– Hakyung Kim
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Tajikistan
Poverty in Tajikistan is significant with approximately 2.9 million of its 9.5 million inhabitants living below the national poverty line. Tajikistan’s low GDP capita further underscores the country’s dismal socioeconomic situation. In 2019, it did not exceed $871, making it the lowest in Central Asia.

Limited employment opportunities have forced the local population either to solicit work in Russia, with remittance payments accounting for up to 50% of the GDP and reaching close to $2 billion in 2016, or turn to agriculture. Farming employs as many as 50% of the workforce, but seeing as almost one in four Tajik households does not possess secure access to food, it has failed to mitigate poverty. Although Tajikistan is an agrarian economy, its mountainous terrain, degraded pastures and such problems as exiguous agricultural knowledge and subpar infrastructure militate against the farmers’ yields and perpetuate food shortages.

However, this has not escaped worldwide attention, and many international nonprofits are currently present in Tajikistan. Their actions are helping people climb out of poverty. These organizations include the following.

Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)

The Aga Khan Foundation is an international nonprofit that has regional projects covering agricultural assistance, educational opportunities and investment in the Tajik energy sector. One of its pilot initiatives was the First Microfinance Bank Tajikistan. Since its creation in 2003, it has generated 3,500 jobs across the country and financed more than 20,000 clients.

Equally worth mentioning is its Mountain Societies Development Support Program, working with 300,000 farmers to maximize crop yields by managing resources better and to adapt to floods and landslides, which otherwise displace 100,000 villagers each year.

Recipients could obtain seeds from one of the AKF’s 67 agricultural input revolving funds. To support these positive developments, this NGO has financed 1,600 rural infrastructure projects, expanding farmers’ access to markets away from their remote communities and helping 108,000 rural Tajiks gain confidence in their ability to feed themselves both sufficiently and regularly.

Since combatting poverty in Tajikistan cannot occur without education, it undertook steps toward broadening the local children’s learning opportunities. Besides teaching students English through its Learning Support Program and enhancing their leadership skills at summer camps, the AKF manages its own school. The Aga Khan Lycée, based in Khorog, a town populated by no more than 30,000 people, serves 1,000 pupils. With 180 of them enrolled in scholarships, many of those who attend this school and receive a good education, come from poor or disadvantaged families.

Operation Mercy

Operation Mercy has headquarters in Sweden and collaborates with Tajik farmers to improve their yields. More specifically, it targets the nation’s apple growers and trains them in orchard management and soil development, while also providing infrastructural support by procuring equipment and building greenhouses. Thanks to its aid, one farmer from the Pamir mountains, where cultivating anything but root vegetables was previously an unattainable dream, collected more than 700 kilograms of vegetables in a single year.

DVV International

Operating in Tajikistan since 2003, DVV International belongs to the German Adult Education Association and focuses on providing disadvantaged groups, such as former prisoners, people with special needs or impoverished youths with high-quality vocational training. These are among the most vulnerable to poverty in Tajikistan, seeing that many lack the skills to find permanent jobs and some of them may not even partake in agricultural activities. In the country’s capital, Dushanbe, this international nonprofit offers training courses as well as career guidance.

Furthermore, it has partnered with the Tajik Adult Education Association and numerous local NGOs to staff schools and training centers and equip them with the required materials. Its Promotion of Social Change and Inclusive Education scheme saw the group organize 18 peer-to-peer vocational training activities for disabled youths. It also conducted small business development courses and gave business start-up grants to aspiring young entrepreneurs in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region as part of its YES to Change project, which was realized between 2015 and 2018 with an estimated budget of $727,500.

Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)

ACTED is a French-based international nonprofit that boasts four offices in different towns across Tajikistan and works primarily on disaster aversion and preparation. Its activists assist farmers by teaching them watershed management techniques and advising them on how to protect their crops from floods.

In the country’s Sughd region, containing more than 3 million hectares of pasture lands, ACTED continues to support measures to prevent pasture degradation, whereas in other herding-reliant provinces, it has organized a Policy Forum for herders and authorities to discuss this issue and decide upon collective action. Albeit not necessarily quantifiable, the organization’s contribution is tangible, as it helps forestall the impoverishment of even more Tajiks from climatic disasters and land mismanagement.

Many Tajiks witness extreme poverty, but the international community and international nonprofits, in particular, are striving to improve the situation. Whether through promoting better farming techniques, broadening vocational training opportunities or helping eschew natural disasters and their dire consequences, NGOs are making a valuable contribution to eradicating poverty in Tajikistan.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

Landmines in Tajikistan
Tajikistan, a Central-Asian country bordered by Afghanistan to the south and China to the east, has been fighting poverty and food insecurity for years. As of 2018, 27.4% of the country’s 9.1 million population live in poverty. The landscape is particularly rural, with a majority of the population relying on the agricultural industry for both food and employment. However, the lack of fertilizers and proper machinery makes it difficult for people to care for agricultural land in Tajikistan. In order to help remove farmland overgrowth and landmines in Tajikistan, the U.S. Department of State and Defense intervened.

Landmines in Tajikistan

Currently, Tajikistan possesses a number of landmines on its border with Afghanistan. Russia, which partnered with Tajikistan in defense efforts against Afghanistan about 20 years ago, placed these landmines. Landmines continue to pose a threat to Tajikistan civilians who wish to utilize this land for farming and crops. In addition to the landmines, this land has become overgrown with vegetation and would cost a great sum to restore to its original state. The amount of physical labor would be extensive, and the presence of landmines makes the task prohibitively risky.

To assist with the efforts to clear this land, the U.S. Department of State and Defense used a $1.2 million Foreign Military Financing grant to supply the Tajikistan National Mine Center with a mini-Mine Wolf, a machine that remotely removes a number of explosive devices. In addition to the machine itself, the grant covered the deployment and the training of members of the Tajikistan Ministry of Defense to learn how to properly use the machine. The machine simultaneously cuts down overgrown vegetation and removes landmines from the surface, solving the two major problems with this land at the same time.

Since the machine’s deployment, six acres of land have recovered and irrigation channels have reopened to supply towns near this land with clean water. As poverty and food insecurity exists at higher rates in rural areas, access to clean water and this land for farming will provide food for thousands of families, as well as employment for jobless citizens living along the border.

Global Landmine Removal

While the United States has provided assistance in the removal of explosives and harmful landmines in Tajikistan, it has provided aid to other countries as well. In 2019, the United States Department of State and Defense funded conventional weapon destruction in 18 African countries, and during its active years, the department has funded more than $845 million toward weapon destruction in the Middle East. By freeing these lands of explosives and weapons that pose danger, the U.S. has helped support the economies of numerous countries by giving them access to land to farm and battle food insecurity. Food insecurity and poverty go hand in hand, and by enabling countries to cultivate the land they were able to in the past, these countries will be able to battle the hardships of poverty in years to come.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TajikistanTajikistan is the poorest nation in Central Asia and one of the world’s most impoverished countries. The rugged, mountainous terrain covers approximately 93% of the country’s territory, making food production nearly impossible. As a result, the 9.1 million people that inhabit the country often face food insecurity and high malnutrition rates that affect mostly women and children. Fortunately, the former Soviet constituent has been working alongside various countries and organizations to overcome this struggle and has been successful throughout the last decade. However, hunger throughout the country is still widespread and will need continual support. Here five projects fighting hunger in Tajikistan.

5 Projects Fighting Hunger in Tajikistan

  1. The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project: The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project is a plan that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave funding to and the World Food Programme (WFP) implemented. The project started in January 2018 and will go to 2022. It intends to improve nutrition and healthcare in the region by “[providing] specialized nutritious food to over 24,000 malnourished children aged 6-59 months in more than 300 national primary health centers in targeted districts.”
  2. Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): In September 2013, the Republic of Tajikistan joined SUN, a movement consisting of 61 countries that work alongside central and local governments to improve nutrition. Since joining, Tajikistan has passed several laws and documents that address improvements in health, nutrition and food security. Not only that, but the government has also installed the Food Security Council of the Republic of Tajikistan (FSCT) to delegate strategic methods on how the country should allocate food to alleviate widespread hunger. Since joining the movement, the country has made various improvements in all aspects of nutrition. For instance, from 2016 to 2019, SUN was able to decrease stunting in children under 5 years of age, a very prevalent issue throughout the country, by 9.3%.
  3. Women’s Dietary Diversity Score (WDDS): The Women’s Dietary Diversity Score, or better known as the WDDS, is a qualitative global nutrition evaluation that studies the types of food that a person consumes over 24 hours. The objective is to monitor the quality of the Tajik peoples’ current diet so the government can determine how to integrate better nutrition. The indicator focuses on women because experts believe that if women can satisfy their high nutritional needs, especially mothers and those expecting, then family members should also achieve their dietary needs. In the pilot WDDS study in 2016, the mean score on a scale from one to nine was six. Future studies will focus more on having comparable food-related information.
  4. Agrarian Reform Programme: From 2012 to 2020, the Agrarian Reform Programme of the Republic of Tajikistan addressed how to enhance the country’s low agricultural productivity. The landlocked state often faces hardship when it comes to food production because 7% of arable land is often prone to soil degradation. With assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the country has received support to revise and advance policies regarding federal policies on food security, distribution and nutrition. Through various agrarian reforms throughout the eight-year period, the amount of arable land increased to nearly 65%.
  5. Feed the Future: Feed the Future is an American global hunger and poverty initiative that emerged in 2010. It aligns people from various sectors and the U.S. government to create an effective way to assist countries that need help enhancing their food production and distribution systems. With the support of USAID, the initiative has been able to help farmers boost their rate of food production while simultaneously teaching the importance of proper nutrition. The majority of the focus has been on Khatlon, a key province for agricultural production in the southwest area of Tajikistan that also has the highest rates of undernutrition and the largest number of those living below the poverty line.

Through various technological and modernization developments, Feed the Future has had a huge success, including secure access to land and water, increased breastfeeding rates and the establishment of a pilot program to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition in children. One of the most notable accomplishments was the introduction of seedling technology that helped produce more than 1.5 million seedlings of improved produce, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers.

While hunger is still a very prominent issue throughout Tajikistan, the Tajik government and international organizations’ efforts have brought forth numerous improvements throughout the last 10 years. With continued support, Tajikistan has high hopes for an improved future.

Heather Law
Photo: Flickr

poverty in TajikistanNestled in between Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan sits in Central Asia among its sprawling mountain range. In the past decade, major oil and natural gas reserves have been found in Tajikistan which has kindled the hope of stimulating the nation’s struggling economy and of shifting their economic power back to them. As of 2018, around 27.4% of the population in Tajikistan lived below the national poverty line. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan:

10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan

  1. Not all regions of the country are grappling with poverty to the same extent. In the northwest region of Sugd, the poverty rate was 17.5% in 2018. In the region just below, the Districts of Republican Subordination, that rate was almost doubled at 33.2%.
  2. Poverty seems to affect rural areas of Tajikistan more severely than urban areas. Farming cotton, one of Tajikistan’s main cash crops, has been shown to do very little for mitigating poverty levels or maneuvering individuals out of poverty. Those with non-agricultural jobs, however, in urban areas like the capital, Dushanbe, can go to Russia to find work. This is a common occurrence. As of 2018, the poverty rate in urban Tajikistan stood at about 21.5%, whereas the rate for rural Tajikistan was at 30.2%.
  3. The rate of poverty reduction in Tajikistan has decreased. From 2000 to 2015, the rate of poverty dropped from 83% to 31%. Since 2014, the national poverty rate has slowed to dropping by 1% each year.
  4. This slowing rate of poverty reduction can be attributed to a lack of job creation and stagnating wage growth. With a lack of new and improved jobs to stimulate the economy, much of the workforce turns to employment in Russia; this does little to stimulate Tajikistan’s own economy.
  5. A reported 75% of households have concerns about meeting their family’s basic necessities over the next year. Tajikistan is the poorest and most distant of the independent former Soviet Union states. In the first nationally conducted survey since the war ceased and Tajikistan gained its independence, studies found that more than 95% of households failed to meet the minimum amount of food consumption to be considered appropriately sustained.
  6. Tajikistan has a prevalence of child malnutrition and stunting; this has been attributed to inconsistent access to clean water and food. Many households spend more than they can truly afford to obtain drinking water. For the 64% of people in Tajikistan living below the national poverty line, this means incurring extra expenses while already making under $2 a day.
  7. For every 1000 inhabitants, there are only 163 places to live. Tajikistan has the lowest housing stock in the Europe and Central Asia regions at 1.23 million units. This can largely be attributed to the government no longer being able to provide public housing, while private owners have no extra money to invest in or maintain the upkeep of properties.
  8. 35% of Tajikistan’s population is under the age of 15. In the world’s wealthier nations, this number hovers at about 17%. A disproportionate amount of youth in the population means more problems for the burgeoning workforce as they struggle to earn an income: especially in a place where the economy may not be ready to respond. This could further the stagnation of Tajikistan’s economy, with frustrated young workers leaving to find work in other nations, as many are already doing.
  9. As many as 40% of Tajiks in Russia may be working illegally. Tajikistan relies on remittances from Russia. This is paired with Russia’s increasingly strict administrative processes for foreigners seeking work. Due to these two conditions, The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ reported number of one million Tajiks working in Russia per year is questionably low. Between 30% and 40% of households in Tajikistan have at least one member of the family working abroad.
  10. The literacy rate in Tajikistan is 99.8% as of 2015. Primary education is compulsory and literacy is high, though the skill level in youths has been decreasing. This is due to economic needs calling the younger population away from their education in search of an income to help meet their daily needs.

Tajikistan has been climbing its way out of poverty since it has gained its independence in 1991. However, the nation’s over-reliance on remittances has allowed for its own economy to stagnate. This has resulted in a hungry workforce and few jobs to supply them. Groups like Gurdofarid work to try and empower the Tajik workforce; they teach women vocational skills that are needed for them to become employed in their own country.

-Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

projects-in-tajikistan
In Tajikistan, irrigation of agriculture is not only vital for food security, but also for economic development. With agriculture contributing to almost 20% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the livelihood of half of the workforce, water resource management is important in maintaining food security, employment and economic development. However, more than half the country lives on $3.10 per day, and the value of output produced per cubic meter of irrigation remains very low, leading to stressed water resources and food insecurity. Assitance for agriculture projects in Tajikistan is critical to strengthen the economy and livelihoods of its citizens.

The World Bank PAMP II Project

The World Bank has implemented agriculture projects in Tajikistan, such as the Second Public Employment for Sustainable Agriculture and Water Resources Management Project (PAMP II), working closely with the Tajikistan government to support water resource management and increase crop yields.

The objectives of PAMP II are the following:

  • Give people experiencing food insecurity employment through the building of drainage and irrigation infrastructure.
  • Scale up the production of crops as a result of improved drainage and irrigation systems.
  • Provide support for the creation of better institutions and policies for water resource management.
  • Improve the availability of food and accessibility for people in rural areas with low incomes.

The project’s components include public works and rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, assistance in water resource management and project management.

Daler Abdurazoqzoda with the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources stated that “The World Bank’s support allowed us to advance all aspects of water sector reform – infrastructure, institutions and legislation.”

Additionally, in 2020, the Tajikistan government implemented a new law for Water Users Associations, establishing community-based organizations as part of irrigation governance and empowering them to provide better service to farmers. With this, more than 130 Water Users Associations strengthened to improve the management of on-farm irrigation and drainage infrastructure.

USAID Support

Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also recently implemented agriculture projects in Tajikistan. In Khatlon, nearly 83% of the population works in agriculture. However, households remain poor, food-insecure and malnourished. Over the last four years, the USAID’s Feed the Future Tajikistan Agriculture and Water Activity has provided support to more than 140,000 households. According to the USAID, the program has provided “short-term agricultural sector productivity and food security training, support with improved technologies and management practices for 127,250 women across the Khatlon Province.”

Other benefits of this support include the introduction of new crops, installation of irrigation water measuring devices and enhanced livestock genetics. For smallholder farmers, gross margins increased by 194% and sales reached $3 million. By implementing projects in Tajikistan, the USAID largely contributed to poverty reduction and increased education and nutrition in the country.

Other Support Projects in Tajikistan

In addition, the World Bank continues to provide support for other projects in Tajikistan as well, such as the CASA1000 Project, Social Safety Net Strengthening Project and 14 other projects with commitments of $625 million. These projects provide other services and infrastructure that are also critical to the country. The CASA1000 project in Tajikistan, for example, will invest in improving local infrastructure and public services by financing the rehabilitation and upgrade of village-level electricity infrastructure and equipment to increase the reliability and quality of electricity services.

As projects like these continue throughout Tajikistan, they will contribute to the livelihood of citizens across the entire country, reducing poverty levels and providing necessary knowledge and support for long-term infrastructure.

– Tiffany Hill
Photo: Flickr

Improving Roads in TajikistanAlthough officially established in 1924, Tajikistan is host to one of the richest and most diverse cultures in the world given its unique geographic location and history. Trade and travel were historically central to Tajikistan’s culture and development, but many roads have been neglected.

Located in Central Asia, the country is neighbored by China to the east, Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west and Kyrgyzstan to the north. Tajikistan has evolved immensely from ancient times when nomadic tribes roamed the country, becoming a major center of commerce and trade in the Central Asian region.

The Silk Road was an abstract trade route traveled frequently by merchants from Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, India and the Far East throughout the Middle Ages and the European Renaissance. It passed directly through many Central Asian countries. Tajikistan was no exception. One of the Silk Road’s most northern routes passed through the Pamir Mountains in what is now modern-day Tajikistan, offering travelers the safest possible route through the “Roof of the World.”

Neglect, Gangs and Corruption

But decades of neglect have led to dilapidated and very dangerous roads in Tajikistan, while governmental abuses and gangs add additional strain on these important transportation routes. In rural areas, hazardous dirt or gravel roads stretch on for many miles before connecting with the nearest paved highways. Rural mountain passes – of which there are many due to the country’s rugged terrain – are also closed for roughly six months during the winter and early spring due to a number of dangerous conditions, including frequent avalanches, mudslides and large rocks falling on the road. Gangs are also known to lie in wait to prey on travelers while corrupt traffic police also inhibit efficient and unimpeded travel along highways and rural roads. The so-called traffic police regularly allow government vehicles by yet pull over others arbitrarily under the pretense of inspecting registration. They often wrongfully deem these cars unfit to drive or claim they are unregistered, forcing travelers to pay a bribe in order to continue on their route.

The Pamir Highway

The Pamir Highway is one example of a Tajikistan highway that has been consistently neglected. While much of the road is paved, most of the mountainous passes it stretches through are unpaved and untended. The passes are closed in the winter months because of the avalanches and other prohibitive driving conditions, and the minimal oversight allows the gangs to inhabit these areas.

The highway becomes especially dangerous as it approaches the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, where the road elevates to as much as 2,800 feet above sea level. Due to a lack of oxygen at these altitudes, many travelers report altitude sickness and lightheadedness, a particularly precarious situation given that there are no guardrails along cliff-drops. Road maintenance teams are also slow to respond to any widespread damages, which are often left in disrepair for indefinite periods of time.

Effects on Rural Populations

As of 2016, 73 percent of Tajikistan’s population lived in rural areas. These people depend on the dilapidated rural roads to access education, health care, food and other tools/supplies, meaning that their lives are put at risk on a regular basis. More broadly, this stifles Tajikistan’s economic development and discourages investment in the country. Economic issues hurt the poorest people most of all, and Tajikistan’s continued infrastructure underdevelopment makes it extremely difficult for rural populations to earn a living and access the necessities of life – as is the case in many developing countries.

Efforts to Improve Roads and Infrastructure

However, outside influencers are trying to improve the poor condition of roads in Tajikistan. Neighboring China has begun investing in updating the country’s poor infrastructure to improve trade inter-connectivity across Central Asia. Within the past decade, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) financed and constructed the Dushanbe-Chanak Highway.

The highway spans the length of the country from north-to-south and has given many rural areas the means to access other parts of the country in a safe manner. The road is entirely paved and stretches from Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, to Uzbekistan’s southern border. It has provided the country with stable bridges that span previously dangerous crossings and cuts through mountains, meaning that travelers no longer need to risk their lives driving around them on dangerous dirt roads.

The project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to better connect Asia and spur further development and growth of Central Asia. As of June 2017, China has invested $2 billion into Tajikistan, according to the China Global Television Network.

The Future

Foreign investment initiatives such as China’s are part of the solution to improve infrastructure and roads in Tajikistan, which will spur additional economic development and provide more opportunities for rural populations. Newly paved highways that now connect the outer reaches of the country to urban centers will increase commerce both within the country and with neighboring nations. Safer infrastructure will also spur foreign investment from multinational corporations that can bring jobs and technological advances. With further improvement to infrastructure and roads in Tajikistan, the country may well see itself become a center of commerce once again.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia