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Tajikistan: Humanitarian Food Security Appeal 2008/2009
The people of Tajikistan are in urgent need of assistance to restore food security following two years of unrelenting economic, environmental and social shocks. Reduced agricultural yields combined with the global rise in food costs have left 2.2 million people food insecure. This situation has further eroded the asset base of already impoverished families. Currently, 53 percent of the population lives on less than USD 1.33 per day.
Only 7 percent of the land in Tajikistan is arable. Already limited harvests have been affected by hail and reduced precipitation in 2006, drought through the spring and summer of 2007, and a severe cold wave, record-high temperatures and locust infestation in 2008. Lower harvests resulted in reduced food and income levels in rural households. Further exacerbating the crisis, global fuel prices began to rise in late-2007, causing food prices to soar throughout the country. The cost of bread, the mainstay of the Tajik diet, has tripled, with rural households spending as much as 80 percent of their income on food.
The 2008/2009 Humanitarian Food Security Appeal for Tajikistan was launched on 25 September to provide assistance over a 15-month timeframe to 800 000 people severely affected by food insecurity through the provision of food and cash, while averting long-term dependency on prolonged assistance through rehabilitation of the agriculture sector and key infrastructure.
Challenges facing food security and livelihoods
More than two-thirds of Tajikistan’s population depends on agriculture for its livelihood and primarily to meet nutrition requirements at household level. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) estimate a 40 percent reduction in agricultural production due to the impact of severe natural hazards throughout the course of 2008. Projected losses include 30 percent of wheat production, 35 percent of both potato and fruit crops and 14 percent of vegetables.
According to a joint assessment carried out by FAO, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and MoA in May 2008, one-third of severely food-insecure households reported to have consumed their seed stock, while 15 percent sold much-needed livestock for cash in order to meet basic needs. Inadequate storage facilities caused preventable losses to key productive assets, including over 50 percent of potato seeds. Without assistance, farmers will be unable to purchase the basic inputs they need to ensure an adequate harvest, and increased food security, by spring 2009.
Further, there is a lack of animal feed owing to the impact of the severe winter weather, drought and locust infestation on fodder production. Many livestock, already manifesting signs of wasting and near-starvation, are unlikely to survive without increased fodder. For many rural poor, this means the loss of both a primary asset and their main food safety-net in times of hardship.
Tajikistan is prone to frequent natural disasters – such as earthquakes, floods, avalanches, and drought – which increasingly erode the food production capacity, purchasing power and food security of the country’s most vulnerable and resource-poor communities. Thousands of households risk long-term destitution and heightened vulnerability to future shocks if assistance is not provided to restore food production and livelihoods in a way that is conducive to lasting recovery.
FAO in Tajikistan
Within the framework of the 2008/2009 Humanitarian Food Security Appeal for Tajikistan, FAO has requested USD 6.25 million to assist in restoring food production and self-reliance among Tajikistan’s most food-insecure families. With donor support, FAO activities will:
- ensure late-autumn sowing through provision of quality potato seed and fertilizer;
- increase animal feed production and improve the productivity of natural pastures in livestock farming areas through distribution of fodder seed and fertilizer;
- reduce seed and crop losses through establishing improved preservation and storage facilities; and
- build capacity to enhance locust management and reduce the occurrence of outbreaks.