Stories of rural women from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
With a steady decline in water resources and the need to feed a growing population, the countries of Central Asia are facing serious challenges in terms of food security and sustainable use of land and water resources, and climate change is undermining the productivity of agricultural and pastoral lands in all countries of the region.
In Central Asia, 58% of the population lives in rural areas and although this varies from country to country and the region is experiencing rapid urbanization, Tajikistan has a rural population is 73.5%.
At the same time, the number of households in the region headed by women is only 26.3%. At the same time, the proportion of women in the economically active population employed in agriculture is 41%.
Female-headed households are more vulnerable to poverty, meaning women make up a disproportionate share of the poor compared to men. Such households are poorer because they support more dependents. In other words, the share of non-working family members in these farms is higher than the share of working ones. This is all the more true in rural areas, where dependency ratios tend to be higher than in urban areas.
Women living in small and very remote villages with high unemployment and limited gas and water supplies spend 90-100% of their time on household chores, including collecting, transporting and treating water (e.g. , for keeping the house clean, washing, bathing, cooking, drinking and livestock), as well as collecting fuel for heating the house. Poor infrastructure leaves women and people with disabilities with little time for other activities such as income generation, access to health care, public services and education.
In addition, female heads of households tend to have lower incomes, fewer assets, and less access to paid work and productive resources than male heads of households.
“That is why our project pays so much attention to the involvement of rural women in the project activities on the ground, helping to build their capacity, increase the sustainability and economic well-being of their farms,” says Mahmud Shaumarov, Regional Program Coordinator.
The project actively involves rural women in locally established farmer field schools, and also pays great attention to ensuring equal participation of women in local planning processes, the choice of innovative practices available to both women and men, as well as measures to removing any barriers women farmers face in accessing extension services.
According to Daler Domullodzhanov, National Technical Coordinator for Land and Water Resources in Tajikistan, the number of women participating in the project in the country is growing and is already more than 50%.
Below are the stories of rural women from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
Launched in the second half of 2018, the five-year FAO/GEF project “Integrated Natural Resource Management in Drought-Prone and Salt-Prone Agricultural Production Landscapes in Central Asia and Turkey” (CACILM-2) with a budget of over US$75 million is one of the largest natural resource initiatives co-funded by participating governments.
The main goal of this multi-country FAO-GEF project is to widely disseminate and scale up the best technologies and approaches for integrated natural resource management in dry and saline areas Central Asia and Turkey.
There are several ways to plant gardens: the best of them is to entrust this work to a gardener, Bakyt Ainebekova, Candidate of Agricultural Sciences, is convinced
As a child, she dreamed of becoming a lawyer. It seemed that I would grow up and protect people. And it turned out that I am defending our land! Here, apparently, heredity played a role: my parents worked as agronomists all their lives. And I followed in their footsteps. I work as the head of the fodder production department in LLP "Kazakh Research Institute of Animal Husbandry and Forage Production". And I understand very well that it is impossible to engage in agriculture if you do not love your work and the land on which you work.
For me, the careful and efficient use of natural resources is not just a global and very important issue. We are all responsible for what we leave behind. The practical application of technologies that do not destroy the environment, the production of organic food, a careful and competent attitude to chemicals in agriculture should become the norm. The earth must be protected, otherwise it will be very difficult for future generations to live.
For me and for our department, which mainly employs women, participating in the FAO and GEF project “CACILM-2” is, first of all, a great responsibility and an opportunity for growth. The project is in its first year, but a lot has already been done.
Professionals should work on the land, because it is not for nothing that they say: there are several ways to plant gardens, the best of them is to entrust this work to a gardener. And when we held Field Days, farmers took part in them with pleasure, because they studied, learned new things, communicated, and gave practical advice to each other. This is so necessary for everyone!
We are currently studying 10 drought-resistant crop genotypes. Mogar, sorghum, triticale, wheatgrass are of great interest to livestock breeders. Everything new attracts, we have never grown African millet before, but now, thanks to FAO experts, we have learned that this crop can successfully grow in our area.
I have a big family: sisters and brothers, nephews who rejoice at my successes and always support me in a difficult situation. But we do not see each other as often as we would like, because from early spring to late autumn I am in the fields, because every day counts for the agronomist. My relatives understand that work requires full dedication. We have big tasks ahead of us and we are ready to fulfill them.
“We hold on thanks to mutual assistance,” says Latofat Aminova, a member of the farming group of Iftikhor jamoat, A. Jomi districti>
I grew up in the village of Obi Oshik in a large family. We lived very friendly, we always treated each other with warmth. Parents worked on the land and we were taught to love peasant labor from childhood. And I dreamed of becoming a nurse, I wanted to help people. But there was no opportunity to go to study. But life has decreed that I still help others...
Today I - mother of seven children, homemaker. And not only that: five years ago, our large family organized the Latofati Ramazon farm. Our land is 3 hectares. Boogar lands. But if you manage them prudently, use a scientific approach, then you can get good harvests on such fields. In the first year, we mainly grew wheat, a little land was allotted for barley, chickpeas, melons. Ordinary seeds were not suitable - we need those that would yield a crop in an arid climate, like ours.
We were able to learn all these agricultural secrets thanks to the FAO project, which is working in our region. Experts advised planting mahsar, helped to get the seeds of this crop - it turns out that it can significantly improve the composition of the soil. This is important in our area. We hope that we will be able to get rich harvests. Under the agreement, our farm will share seeds with other farmers. So gradually we will improve the condition of our breadwinner - the earth.
At the seminars and trainings that were constantly held and are being held within the framework of the project, we learned other secrets of running a successful farm. And now I share my knowledge not only with the residents of our village, but also with neighbors from other villages. Today, many young women want to be engaged in agriculture, to work on the land. And I give advice to everyone who contacts me. It seems to me that the world in which we live today can only be supported by mutual assistance. So my childhood dream of helping others came true! We not only help each other with advice, but also work together during sowing or harvesting. It is much easier for everyone to work together!
We dream that a seasonal kindergarten will be opened at the jamoat so that young women can safely do farm work in their fields. We hope that this idea of ours will come true.
And in the future, I want to develop the methods of field farmer schools in our community. And then we all become real professionals.
A person without a dream is like a bird without wings, says Dina Genzhegarayeva from Kazakhstan, who is a successful farmer with her husband
I am sixty years old. In my youth I graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, but it so happened that I work on the ground. And I don’t even think about a well-deserved rest! My husband and I started growing vegetables. They became real farmers. I say this with pride.
It's no secret that the work of farmers is difficult, not easy. The earth requires special attention, great love, painstaking care in any weather. It is hot outside - we are on the site, it is raining - we are working, because the crops that we have planted cannot wait. But how happy the heart is when people thank us for the fresh and selected products that we supply.
We really want to grow vegetables without chemical fertilizers. Organic tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, onions - this is the future we are striving for. But without knowledge it is impossible. Therefore, we are very grateful to the FAO project, whose specialists help us to learn the latest technologies, modern farming methods. It's so important to success!
The project consultants told us about the new sorghum crop. It turns out that this is an amazing crop that can produce good yields. In addition, it is resistant to cold, and in our changeable climate this is important. My husband and I decided to plant sorghum. Don't be afraid to experiment!
We also learned a lot when we began to exchange experiences with other farmers. Field Day has become a vital necessity for us.
Lately I've been reading books on self-development, psychology, and I learned from them: where you direct your energy, there you can expect prosperity. And we direct all our energy into work!
My husband and I raised six children. Unfortunately, our family lost one son. And we survived largely thanks to the work! There are many worries - you need to have time to cook food, help children with their studies, take care of many household chores. But everything can be done: you only need a great desire.
A man without a dream is like a bird without wings. Our dream now is to support our children, marry and marry. I also dream about traveling. My husband and I would like to see the world, new places. But the main thing for us is to live in our native country in peace and prosperity.
Labour and patience are the weapons of the strong, says Nurbi Niyazova, a farmer in Yakkatut Jaomat (A. Jomi district), who today stands confidently on her feet and is not going to stop there
If in my youth someone had told me that in the future I would be professional engage in agriculture, I would be very surprised. In 1996, she entered technical school No. 37, graduated from it, and received a diploma as a seamstress. And I thought that I would always be engaged in the profession that I once chose.
But life makes its own corrections: one day it became clear that my husband and I you need to raise two children, and the sewing craft is not in demand as much as we would like. And in 2005, I decided to take a chance - I organized the Nasimdzhon farm.
At first it was not easy, I was afraid of the unknown, but I understood that one should not be afraid of difficulties. After all, I grew up in a family where my parents worked on the land all their lives. And she understood well that the main weapon of a peasant is work and patience.
At first she cultivated 4.5 hectares of arable land. For the first few years, she only planted cotton. And this culture brought a good income! But suddenly the situation on the market changed: cotton became difficult to sell. Nevertheless, 2017 turned out to be very successful, the crop was grown to fame, we were able to sell it profitably, we even decided to expand production. Bought three cows. My husband and sons helped me a lot. We now have ten cows. You could say a whole farm!
But the seasons of 2018 and 2019 were not easy - the cotton harvest decreased due to hot weather, and we could not cover our expenses. And the difficulties with the marketing of crop-grown cotton still persist, so last year they went the other way: they planted cotton on two hectares, and wheat, mahsar and vegetables on the rest of the area.
In our region, the soils are highly saline, so it is necessary to carefully observe crop rotation, use only high quality seeds and mineral fertilizers. Thanks to the help of the FAO project, we were able to get good mahsar seeds, and what is very important for us - valuable knowledge.
We had a field farmer school organized and I attended all the seminars that FAO specialists conducted for us. We learned a lot about the technologies for growing crops that can thrive in our saline soils, got acquainted with the intricacies of making compost, we were also explained how to properly grow vegetables in our climate.
I also told my neighbors what I had learned over the years of farming. Mostly women work in the fields today, and they are not inferior to men! We can say that the farm school has become a second family for us: we solve problems together, help each other out, help not only in the field, but also in household chores. Just imagine how harmonious and joyful our country would be if every person, young or old, would share with the rest what he does best.
I can say for sure that with the advent of the FAO project, our life has become more interesting, brighter, richer - and not only in material terms. We are constantly learning, making decisions together, and my dream is to create an advisory center to support and train young farmers in the jamoat. Then many more people could learn what we know today. We have many plans, I believe that we will implement them all.