Bizoro Razakova lives with her husband, two sons and their families in the very traditional county Chorku. Bizoro is a graduate from the university in Dushanbe and has worked for thirty years as a biology and geography teacher in Chorku. In the last few years, she held the position of chairwoman of Chorku, before she went into early retirement in the young age of 54. And she enjoys it. Now she can fully concentrate on her ‘hobby’ and main income, gardening and food preservation with MEDA’s Pro-Poor Agricultural Development project.
We walk through Bizoro’s garden, and the first object she proudly presents is a new seedling greenhouse, still half planted with tomato seedlings. The empty part had also been used to grow tomato seedlings. Bizoro and her husband have sold them on the local market for 200 Somoni – app. 70 dollars. Bizoro had already experience with growing early seedlings under plastic, before Habibullo and Akbar, the MEDA chief agronomist, visited her at the beginning of March, to propose her to support the installation of a ‘real’ greenhouse. Until that time, Bizoro had only prepared seedlings for her own garden.
This is the first time that she has been able to sell seedlings and to supply the poorest of her neighbors free of charge. The plastic sheeting can be re-used one more season and the planned improvements on the greenhouse only require materials that are freely available, such as stones and mud. Bizoro has been surprised herself how easy she could recover the costs and make a profit already in the first year. With pleasure she agrees to test some improved solar drying methods and equipment, as food preservation by drying is another of her specialties. She does not only dry fruits and vegetables, but also cultivated and wild medicinal plants and herbs.
There are also a variety of vegetables in Bizoro’s garden that may not have been seen in Tajikistan before. Unbelievable – Bizoro has hazelnuts, which she has brought from Georgia many years ago. She practices intercropping and crop rotation, collects the first Colorado beetles by hand (before they can severely damage the plants), helps her neighbors with her knowledge, and conducts regular meetings with the neighborhood women. She advises them on gardening, food preservation, nutrition and other household issues. Soon she will be able to add growing in greenhouses and advanced solar drying methods to her subjects.
Bizoro is the ‘proto-type’ of a Village Advisor and the MEDA team is looking forward to work closely with her. She agrees to participate in the MEDA Village Advisors training program. After the training she will be able to organize professional seminars and discussions to receive additional income from her high quality consultant services.