People, planet, profit jumpstarts progress in Tajikistan

In the Gonchi district of Tajikistan, Sharipova Nasiba has become her family’s main breadwinner. After Nasiba’s husband became too ill to work, the mother of two joined a women’s self-help group to begin a small business growing crops in a greenhouse.

She and two other women received training in how to organize their business and create a business development plan, prepare and maintain family budgets, and produce home compost. The group planted tomatoes and sweet peppers in its greenhouse, and then distributed seedlings to other similar groups two months later, bringing in money.

“The next step of our work is to improve the quality of soil and prepare it for the sowing of greenhouse vegetables,” Nasiba explained.

Nasiba’s group is one of about 65 “green” micro-enterprises supported by a project of the UNDP-UN Environment Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) to reduce poverty in the country while improving local ecosystems.

In Tajikistan, two thirds of rural communities depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet only 7 percent of land is suitable for farming. Unsustainable agricultural use and climate change have led to depleted soils, deforestation and waning productivity. Increasing pressure on this available land has made it difficult for rural communities to feed their families.

Tajikistan recognized the need for integrating environmental sustainability in its national development plans, but struggled to convert its goals into progress. National and local budgets suffered from decreasing revenues, and supporting good environmental initiatives was seen as impractical.

So Tajikistan, in partnership with PEI, set out to show that a poverty-environment approach could bring economic benefits, with a triple bottom line approach of “people, planet, profit.” The Government of Tajikistan worked with the Regional Growth Programme in 14 districts and 65 localities of the Sughd Region, an area that generates 40 per cent of the industrial and 30 per cent of the agricultural production of Tajikistan.

Working with PEI, local authorities set out to explore which profitable business initiatives could also improve the lives of poor people and ecosystems. Local communities were supported in identifying “green” products and services, which were then evaluated by representatives from the environmental department. Today more than 65 green enterprises are supported by a regional trust fund mechanism that answers both environmental and poverty reduction criteria.

In the Gonchi district, women’s cooperatives have been established to provide “green” jobs for women. These cooperatives use greenhouses to grow crops year-round, providing food for their families and for selling to other villages.

For the first time, women are taking an active role in local economic activity rather than having to depend on unreliable remittances from abroad. There are now 10 cooperatives like the one in Gonchi supporting jobs for women.

Local authorities support the distribution of flower seedlings, and district communal services help with the provision of water. The cost of fertilizer is also reduced, as women prepare compost at home for the next planting season. A local farm leases the cooperatives an additional 15 acres for cultivation of grapes. Each greenhouse can generate up to US $3,600 in six months, providing stable and independent livelihoods for women.

PEI in Tajikistan

  • Since 2010, the government of Tajikistan and PEI have worked together to show that a poverty-environment focus can provide tangible results for poor communities.
  • With PEI support, the Sughd regional development plan and 14 district plans have integrated poverty-environment objectives.
  • PEI supported the creation of more than 65 green enterprises.
  • More than 10 green cooperatives have been established, employing women in the district and bringing in up to US $3,600 each every 6 months.
  • The total cost of the project is US $11,468, with a community contribution of more than half.

This story is largley based on the PEI Stories of Change and was first published on the UNDP Website

Photo: UNDP Tajikistan – Sharipova Nasiba joined a women’s cooperative to grow crops in a greenhouse and help support her family

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