Agriculture is the backbone of Tajikistan’s economy, accounting for 22% of GDP and 19% of exports while employing over 60% of the country’s population.
However, the sector remains largely underdeveloped, and the country depends on imports to cover 75% of its food needs. Tajikistan also imports over 50% of its agricultural inputs such as: seeds, seedlings, animal breeds, fertilizers, and farm equipment.
That means that any disruptions in agricultural input markets and global price surges have severe negative impacts on the country. With Tajikistan currently being affected by global food price hikes and resulting local price increases given the war in Ukraine, the lingering adverse effects of COVID-19 on jobs and incomes, and the impact of climate change, food, and nutrition insecurity – already a concern before – remain a persistent threat that must be tackled through reform and investment.
The state of food insecurity in Tajikistan
The war in Ukraine is undermining the post-pandemic economic recovery recorded in 2021 and is likely to cause economic slowdown in Tajikistan, with GDP growth projected to decline from 9.2% in 2021 to 4.2% in 2022. Apart from agriculture, another critical source of income that supports the lives and livelihoods of many Tajiks are remittances, largely from migrant workers in Russia. To date, remittance inflows have remained steady, but the negative economic outlook in Russia will most likely lead to more migrants returning home and weakening remittances. About a third of overall households, and 40% of the poorest, rely heavily on these remittance inflows to fund their food consumption.
According to the World Food Program, by the end of this year, 30% of Tajikistan’s population will be classified as moderately food-insecure—up from 20% in 2021—while those acutely affected by food insecurity could more than double to reach 8.6%. Despite significant progress made over the last decade, malnutrition among children and women also remains a major challenge for the country. Tajikistan has the highest rate of stunting—18% of children under the age of five— in the Europe and Central Asia region.
This is why the World Bank has mobilized $50 million from IDA’s Crisis Response Window Early Response Financing to help the Government of Tajikistan address the heightened risk of food and nutrition insecurity. These resources will address the short-term needs of small-scale farmers for seeds, fertilizers, and farming machinery, provide micronutrient and vitamin supplements for pregnant and lactating women and young children, while at the same time building measures to increase medium to long-term climate change resilience of the agriculture sector.
The Government of Tajikistan is committed to strengthening food security and putting agriculture on a more productive, commercial, and sustainable footing. It has made tackling food insecurity one of the main priorities of its National Development Strategy 2030. To regularly have data for decision-making and policy response, it is crucial to focus on monitoring of food and nutrition security across the country. To address data-related challenges, the World Bank will collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO, UNICEF, and WFP.
Addressing the agriculture sector’s long-term challenges through reforms
The agriculture sector in Tajikistan still depends on traditional low-yielding technologies. Most farmers operate on a small scale, and they are poorly integrated into agri-food value chains. Food processing and input supply sectors are also small and fragmented.
As the effects of climate change intensify, average yields of grain and fruit production are expected to decline by 15% and 9-11% respectively by 2050, compared to 2015. Tajikistan’s natural environment makes it one of the 10 countries in the world most exposed to drought, but the country also faces risks of floods, earthquakes, and wildfires—all disasters that the country is currently ill-equipped to mitigate. And locust plagues cost Tajikistan an estimated $10-15 million annually in lost crop and pastureland output.
Through IDA financing, the World Bank has been working with the government on promoting long-term food security, irrigation reform, and increased productivity in the agriculture sector. For example, the World Bank-supported Agriculture Commercialization Project has contributed to expanding opportunities for Tajik farmers and enterprises to enhance their productivity and income, particularly for women farmers, who often face barriers when managing a business in rural Tajikistan. The Tajikistan Strengthening Resilience of the Agriculture Sector Project, another IDA financed project that was approved in 2021, aims to help the country transition to a sustainable, more productive, climate-resilient, and inclusive model of agricultural sector growth.
Enhancing the role of the private sector
While making agriculture more productive and resilient will contribute to food security, long-term social stability, economic growth and job creation in rural areas, Tajikistan can also enable the private sector to play a greater role in economic development. Boosting the investment climate through a better competition framework and promoting innovative technologies and digitalization are important for the creation of productive jobs. Policy reforms in tax, energy, telecommunications, and macro fiscal management are already underway and need to be accelerated.
In parallel, Tajikistan needs to invest into its vast human capital potential by increasing investments in education, healthcare, and social protection, and skills development: an area the World Bank will be increasingly supporting the Government of Tajikistan.
With project funding and technical assistance, we will continue to back the Government’s efforts to deliver steady, inclusive economic development and improve the living standards of Tajikistan’s population—key to fighting against hunger and malnutrition that threaten lives and livelihoods.