In Tajikistan, mountains cover approximately 93 percent of the country’s land, with more than 60 percent of the population living in mountainous rural areas or community-conserved areas (CCAs). The majority of CCAs are located adjacent to Tajikistan’s protected areas, which account for 22 percent of the country’s territories. Its population relies on mountain ecosystems for their livelihoods, such as the provision of water resources and other minerals, significant opportunities for hydropower and ecological tourism initiatives, favorable conditions for agriculture, and the sustainable production of food and other products from agriculture.
With its biodiverse ecosystems, the country’s agriculture sector is the largest employer, providing 61 percent of employment in 2018, up from 41 percent in 1991. This sector is composed of a large number of individual entrepreneurs, including dehkan farms (local mid-sized, privately-owned commercial farms). In 2019, 41 percent of aggregate agricultural output was produced by dehkan farmers.
As the pandemic hit the country, border restrictions have significantly impacted the dehkan farmers, many of whom are engaged in cross-border trade. Moreover, the pre-existing discrepancies in Tajikistan’s labor market in relation to rural-urban employment and gender structure have worsened due to the pandemic, further widening the poverty gap, especially in rural areas and with a greater impact on women and youth.
To this end, the ICCA-GSI projects in Tajikistan are aligned with the strategic priorities of UNDP's COVID-19 Country Preparedness and Response, specifically, on (i) a health sector and social protection response package to assist the poor and vulnerable; (ii) a package of economic measures to ensure food security; and (iii) a package of economic measures to safeguard micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) prone to being severely affected. The initiatives under the ICCA-GSI projects are focused on improving the living standards of communities inhabiting the CCAs by (i) increasing production of local agriculture for food security; (ii) creating self-employment opportunities, particularly among women and youth in the targeted CCA landscapes; (iii) promoting income-generating options in the value chain of natural resources, agro-biodiversity and forest products (e.g. canning, drying, bottling of fruits and herbs), with increased access to local and regional markets (e.g. selling agriculture and food crops, handicrafts, hand-made products); (iv) supporting access to green financing and green technologies (e.g. energy efficiency, solar energy, water storage); and (v) promoting eco-tourism development in CCAs, including the establishment of local homestays, hostels and local services, as well as MSME entrepreneurship development.