Tajikistan, which faces high levels of undernutrition, is a focus country for Feed the Future (FTF) the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Nutritional deficiencies in Tajikistan are currently reflected in a 30.7% stunting rate and a 6.87% wasting rate. Stunting and wasting are respectively long and short-term deficiencies in macronutrients and micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, iodine, and animal proteins. They also are often exacerbated by infections of various kinds. The proposed project will contribute to reducing stunting and wasting rates of children under the age of 24 months and undernutrition of women of reproductive age within the Zone of Influence (ZOI). This project seeks to increase the production and consumption of nutritious vegetables, such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc-rich sweet potato and nutritious potato. The project will also introduce appropriate and low-cost technologies to increase income of local farmers from small land parcels in the FTF ZOI.
Potato and sweet potato value chains were identified as potential high-value opportunities to contribute to poverty reduction and the reduction of malnutrition in the country. Because orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) and newly bred varieties of potato are rich, respectively, in provitamin A carotenoids, iron and zinc, they can help to diversify diets and address the problem of child malnutrition which is prevalent in Tajikistan.
In the case of potato, adoption of appropriate abiotic and biotic stress-tolerant varieties suitable to location-specific conditions and adoption of improved production management practices are the main foci for future interventions in Tajikistan’s potato sector. In addition, access to knowledge and information on improved postharvest techniques (sorting at harvest, storage, pre-sprouting), breaking dormancy, and best practices to improve local farmer-based seed production, integrated disease and pest management, sustainable soil management and integrated nutrient management are the other key factors that need to be addressed for successful potato production. Stress-tolerant varieties would increase potato yields by 25-35%.
Since 2011, The International Potato Center (CIP) has implemented two potato projects in Tajikistan in accordance with regional priorities which form one of CIP’s strategic objectives: Enhancing food security in Asia through the intensification of local cereal- based systems with early maturing potato varieties. Agile Potato for Asia is its short title. These projects are: “Improved potato varieties and water management technologies to enhance water use efficiency, resilience, cost-effectiveness, and productivity of smallholder farms in stress-prone Central Asian environments” supported by the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) and “Potato production support and research to improve food security in Khatlon, Tajikistan” with USAID support. CIP, together with local partners (scientific-research institutes, private organizations and local farmers) in Tajikistan, has conducted a range of research trials as part of the project mandate. The results reveal the relevance of heat- and drought-tolerant varieties for both food security and income generation in addition to helping to make the region less vulnerable to the impacts of global warming. The results of these projects show this as a new opportunity to support climate-resilient agricultural intensification in Central Asia.
Improved and stress-tolerant potato varieties along with validated, cost-efficient water regimes for potato crops under stress-prone environments of Central Asia have the potential to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change. Central Asia is currently one of the most vulnerable regions of the planet with regard to global warming with temperatures predicted to rise by 1° Celsius in the next 35 years. This is predicted to have devastating impact on current wheat varieties. High productive day-neutral and long-day, salinity- tolerant CIP potato clones can be introduced and registered in Central Asia to improve the socio-economic situation of local farmers in Central Asia.
The introduction of sweet potato as a new crop will offer new opportunities to reduce malnutrition and support food security in Tajikistan.
The 36-month project being proposed here by CIP will have three implementation phases. In the first year, sweet potato varieties will be tested as a new crop in limited demonstration plots. In the second year, promising varieties of sweet potato will be tested in all 12 districts with leading and experienced farmers. In the third year, vines will be distributed to local farmers and households who want to grow them. Another important part of the project will be introducing and testing new, and disseminating proven, technologies from previous projects on potato production in the ZOI. These technologies include: the production of early bulking potato, breaking dormancy of newly harvested potato and planting them in the second growing season, and using insect nets for protecting potato plants from aphids, white fly and other insects.
Another important aspect of the project is its role in testing innovations: sweet potato as a new crop; new varieties of sweet potato; new potato technologies; and new farming technologies. The best of these innovations will then be recommended for scaling. This project will work closely with the USAID Feed the Future Tajikistan Agriculture and Water Activity (TAWA), and this project will further disseminate promising practices and applicable varieties. In this partnership, the role of the new project will be developing and testing recommendations and training TAWA project staff on new technologies described in the Statement of Work.