The USAID-funded Agribusiness Competitiveness Activity in Tajikistan (ACAT), led by Winrock, in partnership with Making Cents International, uses a market-driven and local private sector approach to stimulate economic growth, increase employment and improve livelihoods by enhancing the competitiveness and strengthening the capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in agribusiness focusing primarily on the dairy and horticulture value chains. The project targets one of the most populous of the four provinces in the country called Khatlon.
Initially, as part of the preparation phase of the project, Winrock conducted a number of stakeholder consultations such as surveying enterprises, visiting and interviewing MSMEs to identify common skill gaps, and conducing a participatory reflection session that identified specific areas for technical and business strengthening. The specific areas to strengthen became partner road maps that defined their priority business capacity needs.
The MSMEs and Winrock co-identified criteria, that if met, would mean the MSME is ‘enterprise ready’ to access markets and attract investments.
These criteria included:
Winrock developed a set of activities and associated tools to address the common and specific gaps to help deepen partner understanding and adoption of sound and sustainable business practices through the development of a Business Capacity Development Process Guide.
The guide is a five-step capacity strengthening process that addresses all of the five criteria, which can be tailored to needs of micro, small and medium enterprises. These steps are coupled with specific tools, one-on-one coaching, technical guidance, training, and grants to partners, tailoring interventions that are responsive to individual MSMEs enterprise needs. This process supports businesses with a more informed understanding of market dynamics, how to more efficiently run business operations based on firm and market data analytics, customer preferences, or how to differentiate or diversify their product lines. This is followed by introducing and strengthening business skills that are complemented through investments in equipment and marketing strategies. Thirty-four tools that have been ‘tried and tested’ tested and proven represent a shortlist of the most essential, drawn from the wider portfolio of tools. The tools are grouped into a series of packages and steps in the capacity development process. They can also be used in a stand-alone manner. Within the guide, Winrock highlights opportunities to incorporate women and youth-centric approaches to training and tool development to encourage these excluded groups to maximize their business opportunities within the agribusiness sector.
Winrock has used this guide and five-step capacity strengthening process with over 180 micro, small and medium enterprises.
Winrock has facilitated more than $1.5 million in sales in Tajikistan’s dairy and horticulture, and supported approximately 18,000 entrepreneurs, almost 40% of whom are women.