Agriculture plays a vital role in economic growth and poverty reduction in Tajikistan, employing more than half the population and accounting for about a quarter of the country’s GDP. Income from agricultural production is the largest source of income for the poorest rural households.
Agricultural productivity and competitiveness are far below potential, however, despite the reforms over the past decade. Labor income from agriculture remains low, and the country continues to face food insecurity: nearly 70% of domestic food demand is met through imports every year.
Arable land in Tajikistan is highly dependent on irrigation. Yet, the irrigation sector poses the most immediate constraint to farmers in their efforts to increase crop production or shift to higher-value crops. A deteriorating drainage infrastructure, an unreliable electricity supply, and outdated pumping equipment are the main causes of inefficiency in the sector.
With the overall goal of improving food security for Tajikistan’s most vulnerable communities, the World Bank launched in 2013 the Second Public Employment for Sustainable Agriculture and Water Resources Management Project which specifically addresses critical issues in irrigation and water resource management.
As part of the project, a public works program offers income earning opportunities for the poorest citizens, through work that involves manual cleaning of secondary and tertiary irrigation canals. As such, local farmers can gain better access to irrigation, increase their crop yields, and earn much-needed income.