Taking Care of Business in Tajikistan

November 30, 2017
USAID/Tajikistan19-year-old Usmonali Gafurov has become a well-known mason in his village through constructing ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines for his neighbors.
In southwestern Tajikistan, only seven percent of households have improved sanitation facilities, which poses risks to public health and the region’s water supply. To improve sanitation and hygiene in the region, USAID trains entrepreneurial local masons to build safe latrines. The project contributes to Feed the Future’s efforts to improve health and nutrition in Tajikistan. 
 
"I learned about the project through my older brother,” said 19-year-old Usmonali Gafurov. “He participated in training on the construction of ventilated improved pit [VIP] latrines. After these training sessions, we opened a small family business, and I began to help my brother." 
 
The project provided the brothers with the molds needed to produce pieces of VIP latrines, as well as sketches and training on technical methods for their business. When his brother left Tajikistan earlier this year to find work abroad, the family business fell to Gafurov.
 
The first order arrived in mid-February, soon after Gafurov’s brother departed. Project specialists were there to help Gafurov with on-call advice and quarterly training on business development. By the end of May, Gafurov had built and installed 22 safe latrines for his neighbors. And today, he is a well-known mason in his village. 
 
"Often the project provides me with informational brochures on safe latrines and instructions on sanitation and hygiene,” Gafurov said. “Through these, I can explain to people how they should have a toilet that meets certain standards and requirements. Next to the toilet should be a wash basin with soap. I always advise my customers to remember to wash their hands with soap after using the toilet. This is a basic health standard that protects us." 
 
As his business grows, Gafurov has started to provide work opportunities for his friends and relatives. "There are a lot of orders,” he said. “I need help, because I also want to reach neighboring villages."
 
His success in the construction business has inspired him to pursue a career in it. “Previously, I had dreams of becoming a lawyer or an economist,” Gafurov said. “Now I know that I want to become an architect and work in construction."
 
Gafurov has since enrolled in an agriculture and construction program at the Technical University of Tajikistan, using the money he earns from his mason business to finance his studies. This has given him hope for a better life for himself and his family, and he’s excited about the potential opportunities his education will provide, such as expanding his business to other districts.
 
"I do not have to ask my parents for financial assistance for my education anymore,” he said. “This business has increased our household income. If the business gets better, I can ask my brother to come back from Russia."
 
USAID has trained 18 masons and entrepreneurs like Gafurov in southwestern Tajikistan as part of its efforts to encourage people to switch from traditional, unsanitary latrines to safe ones. By helping local entrepreneurs meet Tajikistan’s need for safer latrines, Feed the Future is boosting business and health while providing families with a means to support themselves at home.
 
The Feed the Future Tajikistan Health and Nutrition Activity works to improve the health and nutritional status of mothers and children under the age of five in southwestern Tajikistan, Feed the Future's focus region.  Working closely with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders, the project focuses on improving services at healthcare facilities, helping families improve nutrition and adopt healthy behaviors, promoting awareness of the importance of nutrition at national and regional levels, and improving sanitation and hygiene at healthcare facilities and in communities.