A Helping Hand

Monday, November 18, 2019
Tashabbuskor Norbekova (left) with Chorieva (right), Head of Farm in a field
USAID

“I have a feeling of freedom. I have my own money. I can pay my expenses and taxes and divide the profits among family members who work with me,” says Chorieva.

In sunny southwestern Tajikistan, Aysifat Norbekova was thrilled when a senior tashabbuskor (a local activist) invited her to interview to join their network. Tashabbuskors are community activists who receive training from the Feed the Future Land Market Development Activity to provide consultations for farmworkers in their home districts, and there are 67 tashabbuskors in the network.

Norbekova is a former farmworker herself and had experienced firsthand the support of the tashabbuskor network. She understood the positive change she could cultivate in the lives of her neighbors, especially those of women. Tajikistan’s economic difficulties propel many Tajik men abroad in search of work, leaving their wives and daughters at home to run the family farms. It’s not surprising then that approximately one third of tashabbuskors are women.

Tashabbuskors work out of their local government offices, conducting forums and monthly meetings in their communities. They also provide consultations on an as-needed basis on specific issues such as taxation, collective farm restructuring, freedom-to-farm rights, and more. When farmworkers need professional legal advice, tashabbuskors direct them to Legal Aid Centers supported by the project, where local attorneys accompany them through any legal processes, including registering for and obtaining land share certificates.  

Norbekova officially became a tashabbuskor in November 2017. Since then, she has provided farmers in her district with relevant information on a multitude of land rights topics. According to Norbekova, there are 281 small farms spread throughout the six villages in her county. “Gender-related problems represent the main issue. Many female farmworkers ask how they can have their own land plot. Land registration and obtaining certification can be a complicated process, and many applicants are afraid. I guide them through the entire process.”

Norbekova says her proudest effort to date was assisting the first woman in her county, 25-year-old Salomat Chorieva, to become the head of her farm.

No small feat, Chorieva’s groundbreaking journey to running her own farm began in December 2017 when she and other female farmworkers attended a land rights focus group meeting hosted by Norbekova.

“Tashabbuskor Norbekova explained that even though all heads of farms were men, women served as the majority of farmworkers and are able to own their own shares”. “I saw the opportunity to run my own farm, so I discussed it with my family and they agreed. They were happy to see my enthusiasm and initiative”, says Chorieva.

With Norbekova’s guidance, it took just two months for Chorieva to register her plot of land and receive the official certificate naming her as head of the farm. On that day,January 25, 2018, she began taking action to secure a better future for herself and her family. The following October, a mere 10 months after assuming this position, Chorieva completed her second harvest. While the first harvest was only melons, the second included corn, cucumbers, cotton, green beans, and carrots.

Working other farmers’ lands since the age of 16, Chorieva accepted harsh working conditions and treatment and whatever small payment she was offered. As the head of her own farm, she not only supports herself, but six family members who work alongside her, while turning a profit she plans to use to purchase a tractor and other farm equipment.

“I have a feeling of freedom,” says Chorieva. “I have my own money. I can pay my expenses and taxes and divide the profits among family members who work with me.”

“I was afraid at first, but tashabbuskor Norbekova helped me through the whole process,” says Chorieva, with a message for other women farmworkers. “Don’t be afraid to ask the tashabbuskor for help. Anything is possible.”

Last updated: May 21, 2020

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