For most Chechens, despite the end of the conflict, survival is still a daily struggle. Displaced people came back to find houses reduced to rubble, fi elds ruined and industry destroyed. In post-conflict Chechnya unemployment and low incomes are widespread and many households survive on small-scale farming. Traditionally, vegetables like beans, peas, cucumbers and tomatoes were cultivated in greenhouses. They were high value crops that were easy to grow and sold well at the market. But much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the fighting.
In 2009 the UN, with funding from the EU, continued a pilot income-generating project in Chechnya and Ingushetia to establish agricultural cooperatives to generate basic income. 200 families received greenhouses and 50 families were supported with beekeeping and honey production kits, while households were trained in sound farming practices. The families consisted of the most vulnerable – the poorest, unemployed, female-headed households and those who might soon be homeless. Training in construction gave women the skills to build their greenhouses, while they were given seeds and fertilisers and introduced to agricultural and marketing techniques.
In addition to the economic gains, these efforts were highly valued for their social and psychological effect as they gave people hope for future prosperity. Evidence suggests the future success of small-scale farmers will largely depend on the success of cooperatives that bring together individual farmers.
“Cultivating tomatoes kept us alive during the war” recalls Zura. “Now things are slowly getting better. Yesterday I went to the market and sold a box and a half of tomatoes. Of course, it isn’t enough to restore the house, which was badly damaged during the war. But it keeps the seven of us going. We can eat at our table and sleep in our beds. Sometimes, I can even buy meat for my children. Compared to others, we feel very rich”.
In 2009, all the families participating in this pilot effort had additional income through the sale of their produce, and 90% received sufficient income to support the basic needs of their households.