Small producers of sheep and cashmere and angora goats in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran share the problem of poor access to world fiber markets and as a result experience considerable losses of income. This also hurts local processors who add value to fiber - in most cases poor rural women. The women lack access to distant markets where handmade, luxury clothing and handicrafts made of natural fibers are highly valued and thus lose considerable earning opportunities. In addition to poor linkages to markets, cashmere, mohair and wool producers lack scientific, organizational and technical support to improve breeding and fiber quality. In Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, centralized, state-run breeding programs that supported sheep and goat production collapsed after the breakdown of the Soviet Union and were never replaced by breeding programs for small, private producers. Neither were the new private farmers trained in proper harvesting, grading and sorting of cashmere and mohair to satisfy market standards. These deficiencies not only affect fiber quality but threaten the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of these sectors and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families who depend on incomes from fiber production and processing. Many of these families live in poor and often remote agro-ecological regions where the production of small ruminants such as Angora and Cashmere goats represents the only source of livelihood.
This project will focus on the defined needs of these families in order to improve their livelihoods and income putting special emphasis on rural women through improved production, processing and export of value-added fiber in producing areas of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran.
The proposed programme will focus on well-identified fiber products with market prospects. It will develop a baseline with identification and understanding of constraints to production and marketing opportunities, and identification of impact assessment indicators that will also serve recently approved IFAD-funded investment projects in the region. In addition, by promoting an intensive south-south and south-north interaction, the programme will offer a high quality expertise and a wealth of information and skills with direct benefit to NARS, development projects and farmers of the region.
The programme will thus contribute to the achievement of IFAD's overarching goal of empowering rural women and men in developing countries to increase their incomes and improve food security at household level.