Woman entrepreneur grows her business with quality milk and cheese
Saida Rajabova has been a local farmer for almost two decades. Surrounded by Tajikistan’s steep hills and mountains, she lives in the rural town of Shahrinav, where she has built up a small dairy farm with five cows.
“It’s been on my mind for a long time that I wanted to grow my farm, but I simply didn’t think that I could obtain the finance for it,” Saida explains.
This is when she learned that support was at hand to help her expand her business. A US$ 8,500 loan from Eskhata Bank, one of the EBRD’s local partners, helped her to purchase a larger milk carrier with a capacity of over 1,000 litres.
The loan is part of the Enhanced Competitiveness of Tajik Agribusinesses Project (ECTAP), through which the EBRD provides up to €20 million to beneficiaries through local banks and microfinance institutions, while the European Union (EU) complements it with €10 million for technical support, investment grants and risk sharing.
A community enterprise
The new vehicle marked the start for Saida and her new venture – appropriately named ‘Saida’.
“I wanted to build my own small farming business to support my family and to help our local community and women in the village to make a better living. I also wanted to prove to myself that I can be successful with whatever I want to do,” Saida says.
Women from 28 local cow-owning households regularly supply Saida’s business with milk. The village group joined training sessions on how to best feed their cows, prevent diseases and produce higher quality milk. They also learned about new breeding techniques.
Getting farmers ready for the future
Increasing production was just the initial step for Saida in developing her business. She later took training courses on cheese production, which taught her how to make the mozzarella and Adyghe cheeses. She also obtained advice on how to improve her packaging, which ingredients to use for different cheeses, and labelling.
Finally, the programme connected Saida to local supermarket chains and pizza restaurants in Dushanbe. She designed her own cheese brand ‘Subhiya’ and has obtained a patent for the brand.
Saida and the other women in Shahrinav are part of more than 260 beneficiaries of the support of the EBRD and the European Union of the agricultural sector through ECTAP. The two partner institutions help reduce poverty and boost economic growth in Tajikistan.