Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr



Development Projects in TajikistanA former member of the Soviet-bloc, modern-day Tajikistan, unfortunately, answers to the calling card of poorest country in Eurasia. In 2012, the U.N. Population Fund found that 50 percent of Tajiks live in poverty and the economic downturn has only worsened in Eurasia since this figure was published. High rates of food insecurity also beset Tajikistan, due to its mountainous terrain, harsh winters and scarcity of arable land.

An incredible 93 percent of Tajikistan’s territory is covered by some of the tallest mountains in the world. This fact alone is a significant contributing factor to many of the obstacles to development that currently beset Tajikistan. In addition to high rates of food insecurity, other contributing factors include lack of a reliable power supply, limited transport connectivity and low levels of private investment.

Because the Tajik economy is highly dependent on remittances from migrant workers, the country is especially vulnerable to the regional economic hardships. The World Bank estimated that remittances constituted more than 50 percent of the country’s GDP in 2012. Russia and Kazakhstan have been the favored destinations of Tajik migratory workers since the mid-2000s and the remittances received from migrant workers in these countries have lifted many Tajik families out of poverty. Over the course of 2015, however, remittances from workers in Russia fell dramatically, which had the effect of contributing to a decline in the value of the Tajik currency by almost 17 percent relative to the dollar, since January 2015.

Amidst the troubling economic hardships facing many Tajiks today are several aid programs and development projects that are working to keep hope alive in this country. Here are five of the most salient development projects in Tajikistan:

  1. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Tajikistan Partnership Strategy seeks to help the Tajik government “achieve sustained and inclusive growth that is less susceptible to external shocks and create higher-paying jobs” through three key initiatives: infrastructure investments and urban and transport development; investment in climate reforms, technical and vocational education and training for the purposes of economic diversification; and enhancing water resource management and climate change adaptation, targeting poorer regions in order to improve food security. These strategic objectives were implemented in 2016 and have a target completion date of 2020.
  2. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) sees Tajikistan as a “linchpin” for regional security in Eurasia and has dedicated a significant amount of resources, with the goal of increasing the country’s security and stability. To combat food insecurity, USAID includes Tajikistan in its Feed the Future initiative, which addresses the root causes of hunger through accelerated agricultural development and improved nutrition. USAID has additionally worked to bolster the Tajik economy by assisting in the evolution of a regional electricity market.
  3. In an effort to foster economic recovery, The World Bank has dramatically increased its lending commitments to Tajikistan, from $10 million in 2016 to $226 million in 2017. Additionally, The World Bank implemented a Social Safety Net Strengthening Project in 2011, which aims to “improve the capacity of Tajikistan to plan, monitor, and manage social assistance for the poor.”
  4. Founded by the hereditary Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has operated in all regions of Tajikistan since 1992 and currently employs over 3,500 Tajik people. AKDN “supports the establishment of programs and institutions that allow the Government, private sector and civil society to play complementary roles” towards the goal of fostering prosperity and development in Tajikistan.
  5. The European Union (EU) has invested in development projects in Tajikistan since the formation of their partnership in 1991. Between 2014 and 2020, the EU’s development support for Tajikistan will focus on the health (€62 million), education (€75 million) and rural development (€110 million) sectors.

The current economic downturn has exacerbated Tajikistan’s struggle to overcome its numerous obstacles to security and stability, but these five development projects in Tajikistan provide hope for a more prosperous future.

– Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

58. Poverty in Former USSR States

The countries that once made up the USSR are complex and differ in nearly every way. During the most of the 20th century, however, they were ruled over by one central government. Since the peaceful fall of the regime, the Soviet Union has splintered into the different countries we know today, connected via the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although poverty in former USSR states has generally decreased when comparing the rates of today to the past, this does not mean that the road to alleviating poverty in former USSR states was easy.

For many of the former “-stan” countries, for example, the fall had a rather negative effect on those economies. Turkmenistan became a dictatorship whose elections were not deemed fair and democratic. As a result, the country became very corrupt. Uzbekistan was not ruled by a dictatorship, but corruption inside the country is very high, making foreign aid difficult to administer. Furthermore, due to a highly controversial massacre of protesters in the country in 2005, it is the only country to have cut ties with the Western world. Tajikistan suffered a civil war right after the collapse. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, is different. The country has grown its economy since its independence due to its robust energy industry. Except for Turkmenistan (no data) and Kazakhstan (2.7 percent), every single one of the countries has a poverty rate of about 20 percent or higher.

For the countries located between the Black and the Caspian Seas, the state of poverty does not look much better. Armenia has a poverty rate of over 30 percent due to political instability, while Georgia experienced a civil war that created a few frozen conflict zones (South Ossetia and Abkhasia). Azerbaijan was spared any wars and has plentiful oil fields from which to grow its economy. Alas, corruption is very high in this country as well.

The countries in Europe, however, have done relatively well. Estonia is rated as the least poor of the countries (despite a 20 percent poverty rate) due to embracing the free market system and capitalizing on electronics. Latvia has also grown its GDP. Although it is poor, it proved itself immensely resistant to the 2009 recession and recovered very quickly while putting itself onto a path to join the EU. Moldova, however, has been suffering for two decades because of political instability, leading to the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria forming within the country. Now though, it is on its way towards EU membership, with a poverty rate of about 10 percent.

Ukraine has actually had a fairly peaceful transition into post-Soviet politics, making the 2000s a prosperous period for Ukraine. Although recent events in the country make it sound like a dangerous place, the poverty rate is in fact at only 6.4 percent. Finally, Belarus, arguably the worst country to live in after the collapse of the USSR. The country has been led by a dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, since its independence. The country has been graded as having the worst human rights of all the countries summarized in this article, making foreign aid questionable. Still, the poverty rate is supposedly at only 5.1 percent.

Overall, such a quick summary of each country cannot completely summarize the state of poverty in former USSR states. Every country is independent, making their political outcomes as varied as any group of countries in the world. What we can learn from this information is that whatever past a country might have had does not predict how it will perform in the future in regards to poverty. Those states that have succeeded in transitioning and becoming more wealthy have set a good example. Now it is up to the oppressive and poor countries to learn from this and grow.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan Poverty RateAs of 2017, the Tajikistan poverty rate is 32 percent, meaning that 32 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Additionally, 3.7 percent of people live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Tajikistan has one of the highest poverty rates of central and west Asian nations. It is currently third, following Afghanistan and the Kyrgyz Republic.

The current poverty rate is only slightly higher than that of 2015, when it was at 31.5 percent. Over the last five years, the Tajikistan poverty rate has hovered around the low 30 percent range.

Notable strides have been made since Tajikistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. According to UNICEF, the Tajikistan poverty rate was above 70 percent in the early 2000s. However, it remains one of the poorest countries in western Asia.

Poverty in Tajikistan has a particularly significant effect on children, large families with multiple children, and families in rural areas. For every 1,000 babies born, 39 die before their first birthday.

The poorest people in the country live in the rural Khation region. Here, 78 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. The primary cause of rural poverty is a reliance on agricultural activities that do not provide an adequate income.

Tajikistan is currently the largest remittance-dependent country in the world. In 2012, it was the top receiver of remittances from Russia. Today, remittances make up over half of Tajikistan’s GDP (52 percent in 2013). The majority of families in Tajikistan have a migrant member of the household. In general, remittances have had a positive impact on reducing child poverty. They have been shown to improve living conditions for children, especially in terms of nutrition and morbidity rates.

The World Bank’s solutions for reducing poverty in Tajikistan are geared primarily towards private sector development, specifically private investment and private sector-led growth. An increase in both areas, and especially in agriculture, are represented in the World Bank’s ongoing Country Partnership Strategy (CPS). The organization has highlighted the need for a more “competitive” and “transparent” business environment. The movement of goods across borders to regional markets needs to be made easier as well.

Several achievements in the fiscal years of 2011 and 2013 have helped combat poverty in Tajikistan. This includes the implementation of a “single window” that simplifies import and export procedures, as well as the implementation of a revised tax code simplifying tax reporting procedures. These results and others are evidence that growth and solutions are underway in Tajikistan.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in TajikistanThe country of Tajikistan, situated in Eastern Asia, is a mountainous place with 90 percent of its population living in valleys. Though it has a population of 8 million, the people of Tajikistan often live in rural settings, with only 27 percent of the total population residing in urban areas. The remoteness of many is the cause of many common diseases in Tajikistan, as the distance makes it difficult for individuals to seek basic services.

The most common cause of death in Tajikistan is heart disease, which accounted for 21.4 percent of deaths in 2012. Many in Tajikistan who suffer from heart disease also have diabetes, which can cause complications. Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes also act as the second highest cause of premature deaths.

Aside from cardiovascular diseases, perhaps the most concerning aspect surrounds health care for children and mothers. Children in Tajikistan are disproportionately subject to respiratory infections, which accounts for 8.4 percent of total deaths. Tajikistan’s children are affected because of a lack of accessibility in rural areas; distance is the culprit of these deaths. In Tajikistan, only 63 percent of children under 5 who showed symptoms of respiratory infection were taken to a healthcare clinic.

Waterborne diseases are also common among children in rural Tajikistan. With roughly half the population lacking access to safe drinking water, and the absence of adequate sanitation practices, waterborne diseases are a major concern. These diseases include bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid fever, and account for over 3.7 percent of deaths.

Malnutrition, though not a disease itself, is a very prevalent health problem in Tajikistan, and causes problems like anemia, iodine deficiency disorders and other micronutrient deficiencies. The effect of malnutrition among children and women in Tajikistan is startling. Over 64 percent of children and 57 percent of women in Tajikistan are iodine deficient, and 20 percent of children have stunted growth from malnutrition.

Fortunately, humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and WHO are intervening to improve the health of women and children in Tajikistan. Through vaccination programs, sanitation education, and improved access to medical clinics, there has been progress, with WHO reporting a four-year lifespan increase.

Although the common diseases in Tajikistan often disproportionately affect women and children, many of them remain preventable. Through improved access to medical facilities in rural areas, these diseases will begin to diminish, thanks to the help of humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and WHO.

Kelly Hayes
Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan has a population of 8.3 million, with an average life expectancy of 68 years. In the past 15 years, the country’s health policies were targeting many issues, including the water quality in Tajikistan.

The country has plentiful water resources through its two main river systems — the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. These rivers account for 90 percent of Central Asia’s river water and 75 percent of the water used in irrigated agriculture, which account as fresh water reserves. The hydro-graphic network of Tajikistan is comprised of more than 25 thousand rivers, which mostly originated from glaciers totaling 69,200 km in length.

Despite the abundant water resources in the country, the drinking water supply system in rural areas remains underdeveloped. As much as 57.6 percent of the population had access to safe drinking water in Tajikistan in 2011.

After the first visit of Léo Heller, a U.N. expert on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) had launched a support program for Tajikistan. The program particularly focuses on water quality in Tajikistan’s rural areas, which includes nearly 72 percent of the country’s population.

Water Safety Plan, one of the main guidelines on managing drinking water quality and sanitation developed for Tajikistan is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The plan was adopted by the government to be utilized prior to 2020. This was “a critical moment for the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation in Tajikistan,” Heller said.

Meanwhile, water in Tajikistan is mainly used for irrigation, as the water traveling through pipes is not safe for consumption. The government of Tajikistan is attempting to prioritize its budget to help fundamental human rights and slow the spread of water-borne diseases through allocating its budget for sanitation and water supply. These measures are to ensure access to drinkable water in every part of the country.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr

Pakistan and Tajikistan
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon held a meeting in March reaffirming the close relationship between the two nations and their dedication to furthering the peace, prosperity and progress of Pakistan and Tajikistan.

The meeting followed the 13th annual Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit held in Islamabad, Pakistan. After showing remorse for the deaths of seven Tajikistani following a series of avalanches back in January, Sharif pledged the equivalent of nearly $5 million in aid to Tajikistan.

The leaders discussed the progress between Pakistan and Tajikistan in commercial growth, specifically with regard to the 1,000 Electricity Transmission and the Trade Project for Central Asia and South Asia (CASA-1,000). CASA-1,000 is a World Bank initiative developed to create sustainable electricity trade between Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has recently been approved to move into its construction phase.

During the meeting, Sharif and Rahmon focused on augmenting trade, energy and defense collaboration between Pakistan and Tajikistan. The conversation was likely stimulated by the Turkish President’s appeal for the cooperation between ECO member states, in terms of connectivity and energy development. He highlighted the region’s need for trade by conveying that although the ECO holds more than six percent of the world’s population, its stake in global trade stands at only two percent.

At the 13th ECO Summit, the heads of state adopted the Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025, both of which necessitated increased cooperation and integration. Speaking at a press conference late, Sharif declared his support for the Vision’s practical and efficient goals and application guidelines for the region’s development.

At the conclusion of the meeting between the leaders of Pakistan and Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon thanked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his approval of Tajikistan’s addition to the Quadrilateral Transit Traffic Agreement. The bilateral agreement, initially signed in 2010, will continue to facilitate connectivity and trade between Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia, is home to roughly eight million people. Despite having very little arable land and being prone to natural disasters, Tajikistan’s economy is agriculture-based, which has contributed to the country’s high rates of poverty. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Tajikistan

  1. Hunger in Tajikistan is widespread. Approximately 33.2 percent of the population is undernourished.
  2. Poverty rates are high in Tajikistan. 47 percent of the population lives on less than 1.33 dollars a day and 17 percent survive on less than 0.85 dollars a day.
  3. Due to poverty and high food prices, food accounts for a large portion of household expenses. The majority of the population spends between 70 and 80 percent of their household income on food.
  4. Tajikistan has the highest malnutrition rate among the former Soviet republics.
  5. Tuberculosis (TB) is widespread in Tajikistan. Areas with high rates of poverty have especially high rates of TB with multidrug-resistant strains.
  6. Even though agriculture employs 75 percent of the population, rural families suffer the most. Only 24 percent of the rural population is food secure. This is due to recurrent natural disasters, deforestation, soil erosion and droughts.
  7. Organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provide training and resources to farmers in Tajikistan in order to help them improve agricultural efficiency and better understand their land-use rights. This gives them more control over which crops to plant and helps ensure that their land won’t be taken away from them.
  8. Children are disproportionately affected. Approximately 10 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition and 26 percent from chronic malnutrition.
  9. In order to combat child hunger in Tajikistan, the World Food Programme’s School Meal Programme supplies free food to children who attend school. The program provides food to over 60 percent of schools in the country, which has increased school attendance.
  10. Due to Tajikistan’s susceptibility to crises caused by climate change, the country’s government, with support from the World Food Programme, has been working to implement hunger solutions to help support communities and improve food security in times of disaster. These solutions include improving infrastructure and reducing the county’s food-deficit.

While poverty and hunger rates in Tajikistan are still high, programs aimed at improving the country’s resilience towards natural disasters and agricultural productivity show promise in reducing hunger in Tajikistan.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan Education
Tajikistan is a small country located in central Asia that gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. A civil war followed for the next six years, which caused the collapse of political regimes and educational systems.

While Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, the poverty rate decreased from 72 percent in 2003 to 47 percent in 2009. Tajikistan has been working to recover from the effects of the civil war and the global economy, but many remain trapped in a future of poverty due to a significant lack of educational opportunities.

In Tajikistan, children begin school at seven years old and are allowed to continue on to secondary school until age 18. However, many children drop out of school by age 12 to help around the house or to acquire a job, which means that the majority of children are only receiving four years of schooling or less. In addition, 66 percent of children in Tajikistan live in poverty, which affects both mental and physical development. Because of their living conditions, these children usually do not attend school due to economic reasons.

Tajikistan spends 3.8 percent of its GDP on education. Of its total expenditure on education, 73 percent goes to personnel costs, yet teachers’ salaries remain low. These costs leave little for school improvement and teacher training.

However, both Tajikistani officials and citizens are working toward a better educational system. In 2005, Tajikistan joined the Global Partnership for Education, or GPE, which focuses on universal access to quality education. The Tajikistani government spent 68 percent of the educational budget on basic education; yet, there is a funding gap when it comes to implementing the government’s action plan due to a lack of the necessary infrastructure.

The Tajikistani government worked with the GPE to develop the National Strategy for Education Development, which fights to ensure adequate sector coordination in support of the government’s education strategy.

In 2008, Tajikistan received its first grant from GPE for $18.4 million, and it received its second grant for $13.5 million in 2010. The money has been used to construct classrooms safely, provide school furniture and supplies, publish and supply multi-subject textbooks and improve authority training.

Tajikistan is working hard to decrease its national poverty rate, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Without education, children are far more likely to work at young ages, provide for families, take care of homes and continue living in poverty.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: ClassBase, Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF

Photo: Flickr

On January 2, 2010, a devastating earthquake hit the mountainous country of Tajikistan. Seven thousand people were affected by this natural disaster. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 20 villages in the Vanj district in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region were badly damaged. Estimates suggest that more than 140 houses were destroyed and 950 were left partially damaged.

Urgent Need for a Change

Nancy Snauwaert, a humanitarian coordination officer in the office of the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Vanj reported that, “There is an urgent need for the total reconstruction of houses. Technical guidance is crucial as over 1,000 houses have been damaged and are in need of becoming earthquake resistant.”

Currently, buildings are being constructed using concrete reinforced with steel rebar. Unfortunately, 50 percent of the country lives on less than $2 a day and rebar is financially out of the reach for many of the families residing in this earthquake-prone area.

Sustainable Housing Technology

Starting in 2008 Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan and the Tajik Institute of Seismology began to research alternate means of creating an inexpensive and sustainable house-reinforcing technology. The design created won them the FedEx Award for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness in 2013.

The design has been coined as “Sinj-technology.” Mulberry trees are cut down seasonally to harvest silk cocoons. The twigs of the tree have no other purpose and are free to use. Researchers tied mulberry branches into grids. These grids are then attached to a structural wood frame in mud walls. The grid is plastered with a mix of mud, straw and wool. This design effectively makes the walls able to resist lateral forces.

Preliminary Tests have proven that mulberry grids provide tensile strength equivalent to 80 percent of that of steel rebar. The first earthquake to test this new technology occurred in December of 2008 when the Rasht district was shaken by a 5.8 earthquake. Eighty homes in this region had been previously reinforced with Sinj-technology.

2009 Earthquake and its Effects

The next earthquake occurred in January 2009 when a 6.0 earthquake was felt in the Kumsangir district. Over one hundred homes were reinforced with Sinj-technology. A post-disaster survey found that none of the reinforced houses were damaged.

Another large advantage to this technology is that homes do not need to be rebuilt with the mulberry grids. The structures can be added to existing structures, saving homeowners as much as five times the expense of new construction. It is also 30 percent cheaper to use these materials than the standard techniques used in other seismically unstable regions.

Since receiving the FedEx Innovation Award, Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan has reinvested the money into proof of concept in an effort to create a new business strategy for Sinj-technology. Their intention is to pair this technology with local training of masons and construction workers. This would also effectively provide opportunities for affordable financing of home retrofits through microloans.

This comes as promising news for the 70% of people living in Tajikistan’s rural communities. The materials for earthquake disaster mitigation is easily accessible since it is produced by trees. The communities are now learning the trade in order to create a more sustainable future.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: Interaction, Habitat 1, Irin News, Habitat 2
Photo: Habitat for Humanity