SPECIAL OFFER: Now when new Kiva users lend to a borrower in Tajikistan, they'll get a $25 bonus to make a loan for free to any borrower! This is a rare opportunity for the first 200 lenders who join Kiva and lend in Tajikistan between Feb. 11 and 26. You will receive an email within 30 days from Kiva letting you know if you received a $25 bonus credit or not.

Read on to see why lending in Tajikistan is so important -- and influential:

Shodiya used her $1,050 loan to buy a new cow, dramatically increasing her family's income.

In 2012, 40% of Tajikistan’s GDP was comprised of migrant remittances — that’s higher than any other country in the world!

High unemployment and insufficient wages have driven almost a third of the country’s labor force across the border to Russia, where workers regularly send their earnings home to family.

Tajikistan’s economic struggle has roots in the country’s tumultuous past. A former Soviet Republic, Tajikistan plunged into a devastating five-year civil war almost as soon as it claimed its independence, and 22 years later the economy is still not fully recovered. Today, Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly half the population living on less than US$2 a day.

As the country strives for growth, progress has not come easily. Covered in mountainous terrain Tajikistan is lacking in natural resources, only 7% of the land is arable which limits agricultural development and foreign revenue depends on the precarious exports of aluminum and cotton — neither of which are lucrative or efficient industries.

So what is to be done for a country like Tajikistan?

Chris Paci, a student of international development, is a former Kiva Fellow who spent two months working alongside Field Partner IMON International in Tajikistan. During his experience, he observed how microfinance and loans made through Kiva offer one of the few opportunities available for Tajiks who want to earn a sustainable living without having to leave their country.   

“Because they’re in such a tough situation, the Tajikistan economy doesn't really give people any other option other than to go into business for themselves,” Paci explains. “Basically, people just wind up having to make a living by whatever means they can, and a lot of the times people choose to have a farm, or a taxi service, or a stall in the bazaar.”

That’s why microfinance has so much potential to benefit Tajikistan. While the economy continues to hobble along, loans through Kiva are generating opportunity for entrepreneurs to make a living and support themselves and their families.

So far, Kiva lenders have made a total of $17.3 million in loans to borrowers through three microfinance institutions in the country:
In addition to more traditional loan products, IMON International and Humo have introduced start-up loans — loans that help borrowers start a new business or re-open a business that existed in the past but was closed due to lack of working capital. These loans are often combined with individual business training to help entrepreneurs design and create their own small businesses.

IMON, for example, offers start-up loans alongside a business training program that is tailored specifically for women. In Tajikistan, gender norms are very conservative, making it difficult for women to strike out on their own. For women whose husbands have left to work in Russia, or young women who want to make a career out of owning their own business, becoming an entrepreneur empowers them to contribute to their household incomes or independently support their families.

IMON has achieved a lot of success rates with female entrepreneurs and found that it is not only informative but empowering as well, benefiting women who have a low level of education and no access to financial support.

But start-up loans are not just for ladies!

For the men of Tajikistan, these loans are especially important because they support borrowers who would otherwise have limited domestic career options. The surge in migration to work over the past ten years is a small testament to that.

To learn about the success start-up loans are generating in Tajikistan, check out the last of this three-part series on Kiva and microfinance in Tajikistan next week?

Or make a loan to a borrower in Tajikistan right now! You can maximize your impact by telling your friends to join Kiva and do the same! When they do, they'll receive a $25 bonus to make another loan for free!

Help us get the word out about our bonus program for new lenders by tweeting or sharing this post on Facebook or Google+!

Have questions about lending in Tajikistan? Send them our way at blog@kiva.org!

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