«We need to solve the problem of the lack of quality seeds of many agricultural crops for the development of farming and agriculture in our country», – notes Kurbonali Partoev Doctor of Agricultural Science, in his interview for CABAR.asia.
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In recent years, an increase in the production of agricultural products of grain crops has been observed in Tajikistan. This is due to the general selection programs of the Government of Tajikistan, donor support, as well as joint work of scientists and farms in the country’s Agribusiness Association.
Kurbonali Partoev is a Tajik scientist, doctor of agricultural sciences has been conducting research in the field of agriculture for more than 40 years. According to him, there have been positive developments in this area in Tajikistan over the past few years. At the same time, there are problems, for example, a shortage of high-quality seeds, and prohibitory interest rates on bank loans.
CABAR.asia: Are there any systemic problems in agriculture development?
There are problems. We need to solve the problem of the lack of quality seeds of many agricultural crops for the development of farming and agriculture in our country. The seed fund requires strengthening the development of the agricultural sector, the introduction of innovative approaches, the rational use of irrigated and boharic lands, as well as the excellent quality of planting material. Since Tajikistan does not have wide lands, farmers want to facilitate the working process with small caliber equipment.
The lack of prompt product processing is the most acute problem of agriculture. In some distant areas, especially in the south of the country, the time of fruit ripening is much shorter. Space is needed for the storage of products in order to have time to process them. Due to the lack of storage, we lose a significant amount of local crop in the fields. These problems are relevant since the Soviet Union times.
Will any measures be taken to solve actual problems in the near future?
We still do not know. The state does its best to support us by attracting investors to build new storage facilities, creating the conditions for crop exports, but this is not enough. The agricultural sector needs investment, state support or individual donors, which will also contribute to the development of the sector.
What measures should be taken by the state to support agriculture?
First of all, all farmers need to be given opportunities to get long-term loans. Unfortunately, only short-term loans are issued in many regions, for example, one-year or two-year loans. It would be desirable to increase the time period to pay the debt. The livestock industry, for example, takes more time, because the cattle need to grow up, and this is at least 3-4 years. In the future, it would be desirable if banks take into account other areas of agriculture and give more money and for a long period to the families that breed birds, animals, and fish. Then we can be proud of the significant progress in agriculture development.
What is the percentage of real incomes that farmers receive and what is the budget after all the expenses?
I can’t say for sure. Let me explain with an example: farmers cultivating vegetables and fruits in the mountainous areas receive a good income. But support is needed in the construction of storage facilities and transportation of products for better processing of the crop. For example, to get income, a farmer needs to sell 20 tons of potatoes grown in the mountain steppe, at least 1.5 TJS (about 16 US cents – editor’s note) per kilogram. This will not only allow the farmer to make a profit but also create conditions for the further development of the whole family.
What recommendations can you give to solve these problems?
I believe that it is necessary to develop a long-term plan for agriculture development and to reduce the tax on the water used. Give qualified education to farmers, so that they can successfully apply their knowledge in their work.
Banks need to be stimulated so that they give out more loans with an average interest rate on payment. Strengthen the land-leasing service so that workers can get the necessary compact machines, and, of course, provide access to high-quality seed materials, especially in the field of grain crops, fruits and vegetables. We need additional assistance from donors and investors.
Give an example of a successful experience in agriculture development in different countries of the world.
There are many, for example, China, Germany, and India. The features of agriculture are well developed in these countries. The agricultural sector in these countries is effectively provided, invested and supported through lending, low taxes on land and production. If in the future we manage to implement a drip irrigation system, we will be able to save on water, the level of land damage will decrease, and the problem with erosion by water will be solved. Tajikistan is a mountainous country, and therefore we should have special technology for land irrigation.
How can these problems be solved now?
I will return to the quality of the seed material. Our scientists have developed various methods of crop compaction and obtaining high yields by combining seeds of forage crops, such as corn, sorgo, and sunflower — these are very profitable and high-yielding crops. Other crops (such as topinambur) should be combined with other similar forage crops in those lands where it is impossible to grow them. For example, planting in more fertile lands will result in obtaining a high yield 50-60 times more than during normal planting.
We also need a drip irrigation technique that can evenly distribute water resources. This system should be developed by the Agrarian University and other scientists in the field of implementation and strengthening of drip irrigation. The farmers would be able to preserve soil fertility, as well as economize the irrigation water.
How can the agriculture sector in Tajikistan be reformed?
I think that the current reform, which we already have in the Dehqan Farms Association, is not bad. In my opinion, this process should be directed to further improvement; in our country land is given only for rent, unlike in many countries.
If I were, for example, an ordinary farmer and rent 10 hectares of land for cultivation of crops for sale, then I would face the problem of a manpower or funds shortage to purchase quality seeds. In this case, I can give some of my leased lands to someone who needs it, also for rent. It will save my situation, but it is not a solution to the existing problem.
In order to rent land for the sale of agricultural products, it is necessary to execute an agreement with the local jamoat (village community – editor’s note). The land is returned to the village council by the expiration of the agreement. As soon as new offers appear, the land is again leased, where local residents can use it for its intended purpose.
Therefore, I believe that it is precisely because of the labor shortage we do not have such effectiveness, at which every farming family could completely provide for itself. This is due to the migration of young people to work in Russia. The same problems are in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries of the region. There, like us, there is not enough equipment and manpower.
In the future, I would like such vast lands divided into vast territories to be reconsidered and reformed accordingly:
In 1992, we had a good experience in reforming agrarian relations. The property and land of 350 collective farms throughout the country were given to 150 thousand individual collective dehqan farms specifically for the sale of agricultural products.
In 1995, after the reform, there was issued an order that 50,000 hectares of land should be given to dehqan farms, and another 25,000 in 2 years. Now 75 thousand hectares are officially given to all dehqan farms for the production of agricultural products. Such a reform helped dehqans to choose the right course, and also contributed to an increase of both their income and the state treasury.
If this method is applied again, then the country’s leadership will be able to attract people to organic land and contribute to the employment increase. We would get a great leap forward in agricultural development.
If we manage to solve all the existing problems, as well as to refine the existing methods, our country has great chances to enter the world market. We would be able to apply the European technology for the sale of two products: in the stores, they put out products harvested in the fields with chemicals and those that were grown on organic fertilizers. This would help increase the incomes of both the farmers and the state.
The material was prepared by Bermet Nasirova, a specialist in international journalism, a graduate of the International Relations Department of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.