UN Micro-credit Project Helps Women in Rural Areas
Wednesday, February 15, 2006 12:50 PM

SARBDOR, 13 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - Proudly showing off her cow and calf in the village of Sarbdor, around 80 km west of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, Mavliuda Madrahimova says that her livestock, an important source of diary products for her family, has been purchased thanks to a micro-crediting project currently under way in the Central Asian state.

She decided to buy the cow as, in recent years, her family has had fodder available after they harvested crops from their land plot. The scheme has changed the family’s life, Mavliuda said.

After her husband had a heart attack and became bed-ridden in 1998, the family of nine were desperate with no money to live on. “At that time, my children were going to primary school, our collective farm ceased to operate and nobody was there to help us. I had became the head of the household and had to run a small family farm,” Mavliuda explained.

Initiated by the Tajik government and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the local Women in Development bureau is providing assistance to rural women through training and micro-credits.

Following such training, Mavliuda decided to borrow a micro-credit to buy seeds and fertilisers. “It was a very big risk for us. When we used to work for a collective farm, we only worked the fields and did not bear any responsibility. But now we have to learn how to run things, make profit and pay back the loan,” the female farmer said.

The enterprise proved successful and other schemes followed. “After paying back the first loan, we borrowed more, including [money] to purchase a vehicle, equipment for processing agricultural produce and for raising livestock,” Mavliuda maintained, adding that now the family had a stable and sustainable income. “I am so happy that my sons did not have to leave for Russia in search of work as many of our neighbours did.”

While Mavliuda’s income back in 1998 was almost zero, after joining the scheme she has been able to marry two sons and the family have money to buy good quality foodstuff and clothes.

Female-headed households are not unusual in Tajikistan, which is still reeling from the consequences of the five-year civil war that ravaged the country between 1992 and 1997. More than 25,000 women became widows because of the conflict.

Moreover, tens of thousands of men leave for Russia’s main cities in search of work, while their wives remain behind taking responsibility for their extended family. In order to provide for their families women have no choice other than to master new trades and professions.

According to the World Bank, over 60 percent of Tajikistan’s population lives below the national poverty line and the average monthly salary is little over US $20. Observers say that the poverty level in rural areas is even higher.

In an effort to tackle the issue, UNDP launched its micro-credits programme in 1997 for rural women. The project is aimed at promoting rural entrepreneurship and working on the issue of unemployment and sustainable livelihoods.

UNDP’s programme on community development in Tajikistan is currently working in 30 districts of the former Soviet republic and has distributed loans worth some $3 million, with around 40,000 beneficiaries, of whom some 30 percent are women.

“We work mainly with vulnerable groups in many provinces. Our customers pay their micro-credits back on time and there have not been any cases of default loans so far,” Mubin Rustamov, senior adviser on economic development in UNDP’s Tajikistan office, said.

Shulamo Khoshakova, director of the local Gender va Tarakkiyot (Gender and Development) NGO providing micro-credits to women, said that new enterprises were very varied.

“We have supported projects on developing livestock and poultry farms, small mills, bakeries and pastry workshops in various places. Our customers also grow fruit and vegetables, flowers, and are active in bee-farming and fishery,” Khoshakova said.

Published in: UN Micro-credit Project Helps Women in Rural Areas, UN IRIN, 13 February 2006. © IRIN.

[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]