“Groundbreakers: The Fearless 15:” women entrepreneurs transforming agribusiness in Tajikistan
The U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan’s website recently featured the publication of a photobook by USAID’s Agribusiness Competitiveness Activity in Tajikistan activity that profiles 15 high-impact women entrepreneurs who are thriving in traditionally male-dominated agribusinesses ranging from processing to trading and exporting.
Implemented by Winrock International, the five-year ACAT activity has so far facilitated investments of more than $1.5 million in Tajikistan’s dairy and horticulture industries and supported approximately 18,000 entrepreneurs, nearly 40% of whom are women.
Amongst the many women farmers and agribusiness owners that have engaged with ACAT are 15 women leaders whose success offers inspiration to other women entrepreneurs. Their stories are captured in a new photobook published by ACAT called Groundbreakers: The Fearless 15.
“Women’s meaningful economic participation is integral to achieving greater security and economic stability in Tajikistan. When women are empowered economically, they tend to invest in their families and communities, spurring economic growth and creating more stable and prosperous communities,” said Bridgette L. Walker, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe.
The book includes profiles of business owners like Savlatmoh Fayzova and Adolat Berdieva, both of whom developed small companies from the ground up into competitive and profitable agri-firms, in part with technical, trade and market linkage support facilitated by ACAT and its partners.
When Fayzova first told family and friends about her dream of reviving an old fruit and vegetable processing plant in the Khatlon region that had been closed since the days of the Tajikistani Civil War more than 20 years ago, they laughed at her.
“I always dreamed that one day, I would restore the factory and return everyone to their homes,” Fayzova says in the photobook. “Everyone would have a stable job.” Despite the odds, she purchased the former plant and established LLC Savlati Mahmud as a cold storage and cannery business. After ACAT started in 2018, she applied for a grant to expand her business with refrigeration equipment, vegetable washing tubs, and modern packaging and labeling machinery. The new equipment enables her to safely store more than 400 tons of agricultural products and to produce up to 500 canned foods daily. Her business now employs 18 full-time staff members and 30 seasonal laborers.
Before Adolat Berdieva connected with ACAT, the fruit processing business she owned with her husband, Ermati, could only handle up to three tons of dried fruit per day. She lost the business when a storm wiped out harvests in northern Tajikistan. She attended a study tour offered by ACAT that helped her learn about improved harvesting practices and how to properly dry apricots to improve fruit quality, and then obtained a grant that helped her open a new plant. It includes modern fruit drying equipment geared toward large-scale production, processing and packaging of dried fruit, as well as pistachios and almonds. Berdieva obtained a new line of drying equipment which eliminated the need for most manual labor, and now employs 20 permanent staff and 100 seasonal positions, while her storage capacity has increased to 20 tons.
In her village, Berdieva has become known for fostering leadership, and provides advice on best practices to other women agribusiness owners. She plans on expanding her business to sell to international markets and increase trade.
“How did my entrepreneurship journey start? From incredibly hard work,” Berdieva says in the book. “I am an ordinary farmer.”