Improving the welfare of smallholder potato farmers in Tajikistan

On May 13, 2015 U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, Mr. David Lane, visited a USAID-CIP potato demo plot at J. Rumi, Navobad jamoat, Chorbogh village and met with individual farmers who have participated in a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) agricultural capacity building program. Ambassador Lane was in Tajikistan to observe how the United States and the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies collaborate to support rural households, farmers, businesses, and government officials to improve food security and nutrition and promote agricultural development in Tajikistan.

Potato is an extremely important staple food in Central Asia, where it is often referred to as the “second bread”. Yet small scale potato growers face challenges of drought, soil degradation and salination. Malnutrition, especially among children, is also a challenge. Fortified potatoes rich in micronutrients can increase availability of specific nutrients to address common nutrition challenges.

With a grant from USAID, CIP is introducing high yield potato varieties rich in iron and zinc and which are adapted to local growing conditions – i.e. drought, heat and saline tolerant. Because water resource management is a major constraint in the region, this water friendly variety of potato, which can grow in drought conditions with proper technology and irrigation methods, has great potential in southern Tajikistan.CIP started the Potato Production Support and Research to Improve Food Security in Khatlon Province project in 2013. The project provided germplasm of adapted potato varieties along with agricultural extension, training and materials, and introduced a model of a modern potato production farm. The potato demo plot is producing seed potatoes in the Spring and Fall growing seasons.

The combination of early-maturing and stress tolerant varieties along with appropriate crop management, allows farmers to intercrop potatoes with wheat and cotton to intensify land usage and earn a higher income. Through mapping and value chain creation, the project supports poor farmers to exploit an additional high value crop and gain additional income of approximately $6,800 USD/ha as soon as the second growing season. Karimova Zaynura, a farmer from Kumsangir district, planted CIP potatoes in 2014. She said, “New potato varieties provided by CIP are four times more productive and much tastier in comparison to local varieties. My children eat this potato with pleasure. I already can ensure my family with a seed potato for summer growing season from the first harvest. It was a big challenge in the past, because seed potatoes for the second growing season are not readily available.” Another farmer, Samiev Abubakir, says this year he will sell seed potatoes produced on his farm during the first growing seed to other farmers seeking high quality seed potatoes for the second growing season. Smallholder farmers can earn an additional $100 to $120 USD on 181 square meters over 90 days.

The International Potato Center (CIP) implements the two-year Potato Production Support and Research Project to Improve Food Security in Khatlon, Tajikistan, under the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative implemented by USAID. The project seeks to improve the welfare of poor, smallholder potato farmers in Khatlon Province through increased income and food security and to build capacity for improved quality potato production for the fresh market, thus boosting food availability and incomes.