bne IntelliNews – Tajikistan faces the triple challenge of poverty, climate change and a rapidly growing population

Tajikistan, the poorest country in emerging Europe, also has its fastest growing population, which is expected to more than double by the end of the century.

By 2100, the United Nations predicts that the population of Tajikistan will reach 20.4 million. Unlike most countries in emerging Europe, Tajikistan’s population is expected to grow further by 2100, although the rate of growth will slow as the birth rate is expected to decline, while the aging population means the mortality rate will increase.

The growth predicted for the rest of this century is already on top of decades of robust population growth; between 1950 and 2100, the population of Tajikistan is expected to increase by 1,261%.

However, this raises concerns for food security, as even with its current population of 9.6 million (in 2021), its mainly mountainous territory does not produce enough food to meet the needs of the national population and depends on imports.

The World Food Program (WFP) says Tajikistan faces persistent food security challenges. The country’s malnutrition rates are the highest in Central Asia, although they have declined somewhat over the past 10 years.

In addition, vitamin deficiencies mean that more than 40% of women and children are affected by anemia and more than 50% have an iodine deficiency.

The amount of food Tajikistan can produce to feed its growing population is limited. Only 7% of Tajikistan’s territory is arable land (the remaining 93% is mountainous), and of the small amount of arable land, 97% is subject to soil degradation, according to the WFP.

Additionally, he says, “Soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, melting glaciers and extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, avalanches and landslides regularly destroy land, crops, infrastructure and livelihoods.

Half of Tajikistan’s food is imported, leaving the country highly vulnerable to fluctuations in food prices. This became evident this year when international grain prices soared after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

In the future, these problems will only get worse as climate change continues.

Tajikistan, along with neighboring Kyrgyzstan, is among 19 countries, out of 157 assessed, considered the most fragile with high exposure to ecological threats and the highest risk of future collapse in the coming decades, according to the edition inaugural Ecological Threat Registry (ETR), published in 2021.

According to the 2019 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, temperatures in Central Asia are rising faster than the global average, and droughts have become worse and more frequent.

Scientists predict that the region will become drier and more parts of it will turn into deserts. As a result, in 2021, the World Bank report predicted that Central Asia could see up to 5 million internal climate migrants by 2050.

Teresa H. Sadler