Tajikistan is a landlocked country with China to the east and Afghanistan to the south. Its population is estimated to be 9,313,800 people in 2020, 74 per cent of which live in rural areas. It is the poorest country among the former Soviet republics, with per capita GDP estimated at US$ 874 in 2020. GDP was US$ 8.117 billion in 2019, of which 20 per cent was from the agriculture sector.
The country’s economic base is dominated by the production of aluminium and cotton (Tajikistan’s main export commodities) supplemented by remittances from Tajik nationals working abroad, which represents 28 per cent of the GDP. The agricultural sector contributes almost 20 per cent to the national GDP and provides 61 percent of the country’s employment. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on the national economy, with the real GDP growth slowing to 4.2 per cent in the first nine months of 2020 (compared to the 7.2 per cent growth in the previous year). Tajikistan agriculture comprises two broad farming systems: upland areas - characterized by wheat, potatoes and horticulture along with rainfed pasture, while irrigated cotton and wheat dominate in lowlands.
Despite its critical importance, the agricultural resource base is characterized by limited arable land and a lack of investment in infrastructure, farm machinery and agricultural equipment. Livestock is a key part of the agriculture sector. However, the ability of livestock farmers to optimize the use of pastures is constrained by many problems, such as a lack of technical knowledge among small livestock holders, poor governance arrangements on pasture management, inefficient management of community livestock, shortage of feed during winter months, environmental degradation, and lack of access to good-quality fodder seed.
Despite rapid growth in recent years, Tajikistan’s economy remains fragile due to uneven implementation of structural reforms, weak governance, widespread unemployment, seasonal power shortages and a heavy external debt burden. Tajikistan has however done a remarkable job in reducing poverty over the years, which fell from over 83 per cent in 2000 to about 26 per cent in 2020. While Tajikistan has seen progress in reducing poverty, the country remains in 125th place in the global ranking. Poverty is higher in rural areas, which are home to 73 per cent of the country’s poor people. It is the most vulnerable country in Central Asia with regard to food security: one-third of its population suffers from undernourishment.
Because mountainous terrain compels people to congregate in its valleys, Tajikistan’s population density is about 488 people per square kilometre of arable land – one of the highest ratios of people to arable land in the world.
Unusually, Tajikistan’s rural population is increasing rather than decreasing. This reflects a higher fertility rate in the countryside and lack of employment opportunities in urban centres.
With over half the country at an altitude of 3,000 meters or more, much of Tajikistan’s geography is extremely challenging for sustainable farming. Mountainous terrain divides the country and makes travel and transport extremely difficult, limiting internal and external trade.
IFAD has been investing in the rural poor in Tajikistan since 2008, by strengthening local institutions and grassroots organizations, and expanding their access to land, productive technologies and resources.
Key activities include:
- natural resource management;
- implementing land reforms; and
- strengthening local institutions and grass-roots organizations.
Overall, the impact of the IFAD country portfolio has benefited rural communities through increased investment in productive infrastructure and equipment, better management of the resource base, increased viability of agricultural production, and improved animal health and productivity.
Tajikistan has done a remarkable job in reducing poverty. Between 2000 and 2020, poverty fell from over 83 per cent to about 26 per cent of the population.
Tajikistan remains the poorest Central Asian country.
About 35 per cent of the population is under the age of 15.
Rural people are about 73 per cent of the total. Tajikistan relies on agriculture as its economic mainstay.