Supporting Smallholder Livelihoods in Tajikistan: Working with women farmers to build new forms of collective action | Oxfam

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Oxfam and its partners are working to support economic justice and livelihoods improvements for disadvantaged women smallholders in Tajikistan. The programme promotes the development of producer groups and other forms of organization among women farmers to enable them to lobby collectively for access to land, means of production and markets. The programme is designed to support increased efficiency and productivity at the farm level. This case study explores what Oxfam has learned through the implementation of the programme to date. This learning case study is part of a series of eight papers relating to Oxfam's economic justice programme in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe, with a focus on collective action.
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY JULY 2015 www.oxfam.org.uk  Women from the Gulobod w omen’s producer group receive expert agronomist support at Oxfam’s village -based demonstration plot , 2014. © Eraj Assadulloev / Oxfam   SUPPORTING SMALLHOLDER LIVELIHOODS IN TAJIKISTAN Working with women farmers to build new forms of collective action   Oxfam and its partners are working to support economic justice and livelihoods improvements for disadvantaged women smallholders in Tajikistan. The programme promotes the development of producer groups and other forms of organization among women farmers to enable them to lobby collectively for access to land, means of production and markets. The programme is designed to support increased efficiency and productivity at the farm level. This case study explores what Oxfam has learned through the implementation of the programme to date.    INTRODUCTION In rural Tajikistan, men traditionally migrate to Russia for work during the agricultural planting, growing and harvesting season. As a result, women are both the primary caregivers and income earners for many households during much of the year. Based on Oxfam’s experience, working with women in these areas to support improvements in their livelihoods can also support household resilience against loss of income and resulting poverty. The road to and from collective action is unique in the Tajikistan context. During Soviet times, the country was part of a wider regional planned economy. Agriculture was promoted through collective farming, which was managed by a central government body. During this period, agriculture in Tajikistan was focused on large-scale cotton cultivation in 126 large collective farms. Farm management, irrigation structures, input supply and marketing were all developed to support cotton production. When Tajikistan shifted to a market-led economy in the early 1990s, central agricultural planning ended and the collective farms were dismantled. The traditional planned outlets for production ceased to exist, and the cotton industry was unable to compete internationally due to high labour costs and low productivity. As a result, the large collective farms were divided into 150,000 small farm plots for private cultivation, but without the agricultural extension required to support the new farmers. Many smallholders had previously only worked on large farms or in factories. They did not have the right experience, knowledge or support structures to enable efficient management of their own farms. In response to this, Oxfam has developed a programme to work with vulnerable smallholders  – in particular women  –  to teach them farming skills; to support the aggregation of production; and to support smallholder market access. This project is building on the learning of a previous project that Oxfam implemented in 2012, and is now one of three working with different partners on how to implement sustainable changes in the value chain in Tajikistan The theory of change behind the project looked at in this case study is that supporting the collective action of women farmers will enable them to develop economies of scale, and will support their access to the training and inputs they need to develop as businesses and leaders. This in turn will result in livelihoods improvements for the women, their households and their communities.   3  ABOUT OXFAM’S PROGRAMME  As part of its livelihoods and economic justice programme, Oxfam and its partner organizations are working with women smallholders farming plots of less than 0.5 hectares in Khatlon Province, Tajikistan. The programme promotes the development of producer groups and other forms of organization among women farmers, to enable them to lobby collectively for access to land, means of production and markets. The programme also supports increased efficiency and productivity at the farm level. Oxfam has worked with women’s groups i n 78 villages. This includes support for both formal producer groups and less formal community-based organizations (CBOs). 24 formal producer groups have been established. The programme also works to influence national and local policy and leg-islation, in order to create a more enabling environment for the develop-ment of producer organizations, and the development of more gender-sensitive agricultural policy in Tajikistan. The Tajikistan government is represented or involved at many levels in the programme interventions, and influencing government and other actors has been an important fo- cus for Oxfam’s work. At the national level, Oxfam has worked closely with the Committee of Women and Family Affairs through roundtables and other events, which is a Presidential-level advisory committee. To date Oxfam has had success enlarging the dialogue as it relates to Community-based Organisations (CBO) development. CBOs are unpaid actors within the community, and their connection with municipal level government can be unclear. Through this dialogue, Oxfam is aiming to help the Government of Tajikistan recognize the value of CBOs, as Ox-fam has good evidence of their value at the community level. Regionally, Oxfam is active in roundtables covering a wide range of topics including barriers to the economic activity of women’s producer groups, and CBO taxation law. The women’s producer groups were provided with support to develop their organizations and take advantage of market opportunities. They lacked sufficient land, capital, production knowledge or skills to manage their activities. They also lacked effective ways of working together. This limited their ability to become effective market actors. Oxfam’s initial interventions supplied the women producer groups with basic inputs, such as seeds and greenhouses, combined with training focusing on agricultural techniques (using a demonstration plot) and value chain negotiations. Responding to a lack of extension support for farmers in many of the target villages, Oxfam put in place a village advisory model (VAM) where the women’s groups and others could benefit from dedicated one-on-one support from an experienced agronomist.  4 Giving basic inputs, such as seeds, free of charge to the groups created an opportunity for them to capitalise their operations. Oxfam worked with the groups to agree on a good process to capitalise their operations that would work for them, and so it was agreed so some of the profits from the harvest would be used to establish savings funds to provide capital for their future operations. The most successful producer group was located in the village of Gulobod. Following Oxfam’s support, the women’s group in Gulobod sold significant quantities of potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes locally. Some of the profits went also into fed their savings fund, allowing them to purchase mechanized services to till their land and prepare it for winter. It will also provide them with the means to buy seeds in the next growing season. Based on this progress, Oxfam’s programme is able to move from input support to more market-oriented development activities, which will support greater improvements in livelihoods and sustainability, as well as more systematic change.
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