Apricots offer farmers in southern Tajikistan a profitable opportunity — particularly when dried for export to foreign markets.
In a region where 10 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, an international team led by U.S. scientists is digging into a new research project to help, advancing the science behind growing, drying, and selling these golden fruits.
Long history, new opportunities for apricot farmers in Tajikistan
Apricots have a long history in Tajikistan, as part of a region that is rich in apricot biodiversity (and potentially where the fruit originated). While apricots are grown widely across the country, farmers in northern Tajikistan in particular have well established commercial production and drying operations. More than 80 percent of Tajikistan’s dried apricots are exported to Russia, the world’s largest importer of dried fruit.
Now is a great time to drop by the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s demonstration center, to check out thriving young vegetables plants that are more commonly grown in Africa and Asia.
One of the garden beds is home to vegetable seedlings that are grown in Africa, sometimes called African indigenous vegetables. These include varieties of:
Spiderplant and amaranth in particular are two of the leafy African vegetables that Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers are working with in Kenya and Zambia, in efforts to improve nutrition and better understand the connection between farmers who grow these nutritious vegetables and people who eat them.
What do relationships have to do with innovation and food safety? Our project is built on the idea that when we focus our work around the shared interests of a community, it can bring people together in participatory ways that result in innovation and sustainable change.
The name of our project, MásRiego, literally means “more irrigation” in Spanish, but this project boasts more than simply installations of drip irrigation systems. Our project develops and implements a holistic, business-driven solution to result in wider availability of drip irrigation, conservation agriculture, improved water management, and vegetables. These activities are carried out while addressing social inclusion, technical capacity, nutrition, and asset building for all community members, especially women and youth.
Our goal is to convert 100 hectares of land in Guatemala’s western highlands to more efficient means of irrigating and growing vegetable crops, with improved management practices. In addition, we will train thousands of technicians, youth, and farmers on how to use conservation agriculture principles and other agricultural practices that stress climate resilience in the face of changing rainfall and weather patterns. We have identified more than 1,000 potential beneficiaries who are eager to adopt drip irrigation in the 12 municipalities where we are working.
Editor’s note: Archie Jarman joined the Horticulture Innovation Lab team as its new program officer, just in time to participate in the program’s annual meeting in March. He brings a wealth of international experience to this position, which includes coordinating the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Regional Centers around the globe. Here is a brief interview to introduce you to Archie and his background. We hope you have a chance to meet him soon!
Question: Tell us about your background. How did you come to work for the Horticulture Innovation Lab?
Archie Jarman: By winding road. I worked for the fire service, which is a great career, and made some lifelong friends, but I had the international travel itch. So I studied International Social Welfare at Columbia University and also interned at the Millennium Villages Project with a focus on whether safety net programs improve childhood nutrition domestically and abroad. After graduating, I then worked at Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., as coordinator and then as project manager with excellent teams for their USAID-funded projects. The projects are aimed at improving the abiotic stress tolerance of rice and wheat in Africa and Southeast Asia and incorporated capacity building. The position at the Horticulture Innovation Lab seemed ideal in that I have strengths that could be beneficial for the program, but it also provided a lot of challenges for me to improve my weaknesses and learn. I am thankful it worked out! Very happy to join the team.
Can you tell us more about the projects and crops you were working with at Arcadia Biosciences?