Duration: April 1 – October 31, 2013
Support for the existing, and creation of new, women’s cooperatives in the Shahrtuz region in Southern Tajikistan
To increase income and improve the living conditions of 155 women in the Shahrtuz region in Southern Tajikistan through the support of the existing, and creation of new, women’s cooperatives. The project activities will contribute to:
- establishing new producer groups and cooperatives, and enhancing the capacity of the existing ones;
- increasing the competitiveness of food and agriculture related enterprises;
- professional integration of the population through, among other things, vocational trainings.
Background and description of needs
The Khatlon province is the poorest region in Tajikistan. This situation is caused by several factors including the warfare in 1992-1997, which resulted in the destruction of factories and processing enterprises; the overall low level of education due to the low standards of teaching and lack of educational and cultural opportunities; high prices of food and gasoline, and of agricultural equipment and fertilizers.
In addition, the Shahrtuz district is one of the most southernmost areas of the Khatlon province, isolated from the west and south by Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Currently there is no cross-border trade between the countries, although non-governmental organizations and the Afghan government seek to open retail outlets on the Tajik-Afghan border in the province. The Tajik-Uzbek cooperation, until recently very robust, is currently undergoing major difficulties.
The most important problem facing the region is the mass migration of men to Russia and the plight of women and children left behind. Migrant men often find new families outside of Tajikistan, send modest means to support Tajik families, or apply for divorce and break contact with their wives and children.
In order to survive, abandoned women and children are forced to work on the state-owned cotton fields under difficult conditions. In 2010, the average wage in the Shahrtuz region was of 153 TJS (about $30/month), falling well below the national average of 285 TJS (about $53/month), (source: www.stat.tj). The difficult financial situation often leads to tragedy – in 2011, the province recorded 122 suicides, including 82 by women (source: www.asiaplus.tj).
The district has great potential for agricultural development because of its warm climate, irrigation system, ability to lease land from the state, and private, large area gardens owned by families. Moreover, based on the long-standing expertise of the local partner and the PCPM’s project conducted in 2012, it has been determined that women, especially single mothers, develop a spirit of entrepreneurship, self-reliance, and responsibility when provided with professional and financial support.
In addition, loan repayment is also higher among women than men. In the conservative southern society, support and approval of the community are of great importance. In this sense, the cooperatives created in 2012 fulfill a social role. Based on the findings of the monitoring mission carried out in 2012, many women were not selling surplus crops from their gardens, because of a feeling of embarrassment and shame in front of their neighbors.
Currently, after several months of working together, women are not embarrassed to talk about their problems, and they look for new business and development opportunities, as evidenced by statements made during the implementation of the 2012 project to take on loans in larger amounts. This project is a continuation of the PCPM’s project conducted in partnership with Chashma in 2012, thanks to which 105 women from the Shahrtuz region have entered the labor market. In 2013, the goal is to increase the capacity of the existing groups and create five new cooperatives.
105 women grouped in seven cooperatives created in 2012 as part of the project “Development of Women’s Cooperatives in the Shahrtuz Region in Southern Tajikistan”, and an additional 50 women who will form five new groups. The Southern region of the country is inhabited by the Uzbek minority, whose female representatives have also taken part in the project (our expert and the Chashma trainers communicate in Uzbek).
In addition, one new group will be composed of Tajik repatriates, who have returned in recent years from neighboring Afghanistan (they fled Afghanistan during the civil war). The cooperation of women’s groups does not exclude the participation of men. One of the Uzbek groups, which was created in 2012, established a cooperation with a tailor – a man with whom they still do business today.
The project will be implemented in the Khatlon province, in the Shahrtuz region, whose center is the city of Shahrtuz. The Khatlon province, and its integral part of the Shahrtuz area, are the most southerly parts of Tajikistan, bordering Uzbekistan to the west and Afghanistan to the south and east. The city of Shahrtuz lies approximately 30 kilometers from both borders, and about 230 km from Dushanbe.
The grant, amounting to PLN 200,000, received under the Polish Aid program of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013