Europe to Promote Rural Development in Tajikistan
Aug 28, 2019
The European Commission has announced on August 12 a $699 million support program to promote rural development in Tajikistan. Rural development plays a significant role in Tajikistan - almost three quarters of the population live in rural areas and engage in agriculture. This accounts to about one quarter of the GDP. However, the natural resource base in the country is weak and the food security situation is precarious. Many of the agricultural inefficiencies of the Soviet system have remained while productivity has declined. Business is fettered, and a key condition for bolstering economic growth and investment involves improving the business environment and enhancing cross-border trade. Therefore, this new investment is going to help Tajikistan’s rural communities to use natural resources in a sustainable way and improve their resilience to extreme climatic conditions. In addition, the European Union (EU) will help to enhance business competitiveness, strengthen natural resource management, and promote sustainable and efficient use of water. EU Rural Development Programs This newly approved program, Rural Development Program II, is based on past EU efforts in the industry and the ongoing EU programs Rural Development Program I and Enhancing Competitiveness of Tajik Agribusiness Program. The first program of $39 million adopted in 2014 focused on strengthening Tajik institutions in the sector and improving the management of natural resources in the Zarafshan valley is under implementation. In the area of irrigation rehabilitation and river basin management, social mobilization activities resulted in temporary job opportunities for 1,992 beneficiaries, of which 618 are women. The enhancing Competitiveness of Tajik Agribusiness Program has resulted in increased rural investment. Through the project, 74 loans were disbursed, together with food security and quality certification machinery in the farming industry, and are currently operated in six labs in Tajikistan, in cooperation with local banks. The current program’s main objectives are to improve business competitiveness. The program aims to do this by supporting an equal number of female and male farmers and agro-processors in business management, marketing strategies and credit applications. It will further enhance natural resource management in cooperation with local communities and authorities by defining and applying disaster risk reduction measures. Alongside these measures, it will boost sustainable and efficient use of water through the supply and installment of measurement equipment and software, that will allow modeling and management of water flows in basins in objective province basins. The newly approved fund is an example of the EU’s growing engagement in Tajikistan. EU bilateral development assistance has increased from around $28.5 million annually in the early 2000s to around $36.63 million annually today. The current cycle’s funds for Tajikistan focus on improving education, health and rural development, as well as boosting investment. Global Partners All the measures above will take place in cooperation with the German development agency Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the World Bank, and other organizations. GIZ has been working in Tajikistan since 1995, supporting efforts to build up the country’s economy and society and bring stability to the region. They specifically launched a program of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Agrarian Landscapes pushing rural development in 2016.On May 19, the World Bank issued a $30 million Rural Economy Development Project in Tajikistan to improve the sources of livelihood for local populations in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region and Khatlon province through tourism and agribusiness. Since all these programs have different methods to accelerate rural development, they could complement each other and might form a systematic framework that can be learned by other Central Asia countries.