When Tajikistan was under the Soviet Union, the country’s agricultural production was controlled by directives and quotas from the government. Agronomists assigned to the collective farms (Kolkhoz and Sovkhoz) provided extension and advisory services. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the ensuing civil war (1992-93) the country extension services are being provided today by a range of service providers: the public sector represented by the State extension officers, who are attached to the Ministry of Agriculture or to the regional or provincial governments; the private sector through private advisory services run by both international and domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private companies; Internal advice within collective Dehkon farms and non-privatized enterprises; and local forms of knowledge exchange and mutual consultation inside the Mahalla (Mandler, 2010).
A Brief History
The main trend in delivering extension services by donor funded projects is a “pay-per-service” approach ranging from being crop or livestock specific, expecting farmers to pay part of the full cost of advisory services, or attempting to recover these cost indirectly through input supply or micro-credit firms (Swanson et al., 2001). The resulting effect of this approach is that only a few progressive farmers with export market access are served and the vast majority of poor farm households, especially those headed by women farmers do not have access to extension services.
In Tajikistan, the structure of agricultural enterprises consists of highly interdependent farms of various sizes; big agricultural enterprises, private firms known as Dehkon farms and smallholders with household plots. A latest study for MoA by FAO claims that 45% of land has gone through reform process and 55% is waiting sub-division. Collective kolkhoz or sovkhoz successor enterprises still control most farmland with the bulk of rural population employed in these farms, and continue to produce in the kolkhoz manner. Farmers’ specialization within the kolkhoz and sovkhoz did not prepare them to take on farm business in a market system, therefore assigning agricultural extension and other forms of adult education a more important role to play in Tajikistan and former communist countries (van den Ban 1999: 121).
The agrarian reform underway in the republic gave a significant impetus to considerable institutional transformations in Tajikistan’s agricultural sector. The agricultural extension system in the country is very pluralistic but, collectively, impacts less than 10 percent of the farm households. Most small farmers operate within small and medium-scale Dehkan farms with very limited knowledge about farm management. For the Tajik government to effectively assist small scale farmers, a new public-private partnership be built through the current Family Farming Program (FFP) by scaling up and transforming the current public extension system to start becoming more farmer and market-driven (Swanson et al., 2011). The trained and experienced agricultural officers at the Rayon (district) and Jamoat (sub-district) levels are interested in providing advisory services to farmers in their respective areas. Yet they were trained in technical specific skills different form extension and agricultural offices at both the Rayon and Jamoats have little or neither physical nor financial resources.
In order to transform current front-line extension workers, so they become more farmer-led and market driven, they will need more technical training and information about how small scale farmers can intensify and diversify their farming systems. They will need to learn how to organize and work with self-help and producer groups, so they can better connect farmers with a range of needed technical, marketing and micro-credit skills and knowledge.