This cooperation is carried out in the framework of the Project HECAFS (Higher Education for Food Production Systems and Standards in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), funded by the European Union's ERASMUS + Program. The Project is initiated by manufacturers and processors of food product of the named countries. The Latvian University of Agriculture is acting as a lead partner.
ГThe Project main goal is to train personnel to know modern standards that meet the requirements of the world market and to be able to implement and maintain these standards in production. The main beneficiaries on the Tajik side are the Tajik Agrarian University named after Sh. Shotemur and the Khujand Polytechnical Institute under the Technical University of Tajikistan.
“At the moment, as it was planned for duration of 2 weeks the European partners are conducting classes in TAU for students - technologists, agronomists, gardeners and economists on food product storage and processing.
In the framework of the Project, teachers from European universities have developed modules related to the manufacturing industry so that students know how to ensure and maintain a high quality of food production.
For each specialty, students are credited with 5-6 disciplines. For example, technologists are given all that is directly related to food production like food product packaging, food product toxicology, food product management and processing, HACCP system of standards, food product microbiology. The content of these disciplines includes the theory, practice and all one needs to know about the quality and safety of food production” said Zoirsho Nematulloyev, Head of the Department of Storage and Processing Technologies for Agricultural Products of the Tajik Agrarian University after Sh. Shotemur.
He also noted that this work is very important in the long term, because thanks to the knowledge gained on the quality and safety of food products, the specialists will be able to contribute in ensuring the quality of the products made at Tajik enterprises, which will undoubtedly contribute to strengthening of the republic’s export potential.
“From the Tajik Agrarian University, the Project involved 14 teachers from 3 different departments related to the above disciplines. After its completion, these teachers will continue to conduct these training courses so that the expert training cycle does not end. Food products safety is a very important and relevant aspect of the modern world”- noted Zoirsho Nematulloyev.
Among the Lithuanian lecturers that arrived in Dushanbe is Alvydas Sharlauskas, a teacher at the Food Safety and Quality Department of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, who is currently providing classes for students of the Tajik Agrarian University. In an interview with Dialog.TJ correspondents, he spoke about the HACCP standards, how it feels working with Tajik students and what Tajikistan will gain from the work within the HECAFS Project:
“The HECAFS Project “Higher Education for Food Production Systems and Standards in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan” is aimed at improving food safety. Given the current needs in this sector, the countries of Central Asia would still like to expand exports of their products, but they need to comply with certain standards of the food safety system. Hence there is a completely understandable need for training the university students, i.e. professional training of personnel, who after completion of the studies, will have the necessary knowledge on how to ensure the safety and quality of food products.
In all the study modules developed by the European teachers those subjects are selected that relate to the safety and quality of food at different stages of production, starting from the field and ending on consumers’ table. We try to cover the whole food chain. Knowledge and skills are developed in these areas so that people could handle these systems correctly.
We work jointly with Tajik teachers and conduct classes together. It turns out that on one hand, students get new knowledge and on the other, we share experience with our colleagues - teachers. I have 16 students in my classes in TAU that make one group. My colleague in another specialty has 40 students. 40 students are being trained in microbiology. In total we are training about 100 students. The schedule is intensified: a couple of days trainings are conducted for 4 hours, and on the remaining days for 8 hours a day.
Studies are provided for the students of 3 - 4 year. It means that in order to cover the Tajik producers' need for skilled personnel it will take another 1 to 2 years until the first graduates familiar with this system come out. Ideally it takes 2-3 years. There were students who graduated from the master’s program and had chance to study these subjects. Of course, there are also those who are working now, for example in “TajikStandard”, or students who continue studying for their PhD. The project is successful, we can see it from its results.
It should be mentioned that the Project included study visits of representatives from the universities of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, who had the opportunity to see how such production is organized in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, how these systems work, what are the difficulties and what can be simplified” said Alvydas Sharlauskas.
Speaking about what, in practice, introduction of such standards is giving on the example of his country, the Lithuanian teacher noted that the most important is continuous development:
“You know, Lithuania also produces food products. In 2000, it became necessary for our country to access foreign markets. We had to establish the exports of our products. Then as now, most European countries, as well as Russia, have always set certain requirements for imported products. Over the time, meeting all these requirements is only becoming more complex, various new standards are being introduced that need to be complied with and this, of course, means non-stop development for enterprises.
Now for example, Tajikistan is slowly opening up to tourism. In this regard, it is necessary to make major changes in the catering system here, if increasing tourists’ inflow is desired. Catering, first of all, should be safe. Tajiks themselves are already adapted to their diet but for those who visit Tajikistan it is difficult to find a suitable place for them to eat. ”
Alvydas Sharlauskas also answered the question about the HACCP system:
“HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. And means analysis of risks and critical control points.
The system is very simple. The manufacturer must be very well aware of the entire production process from getting of raw materials to the delivery of goods – the food to the consumer. The entire process needs to be thoroughly known and studied, after which it is determined at what points and stages it shows the biggest risk to the fact that consumers get a product that is not safe to consume.
For instance, something might get into the place where a product is stored. In order to figure that out, one needs to know the food processing technology. When the highest likelihood of such risks is determined, they should be marked and a plan for each point and how to handle and prevent these risks should be made. Risks will never disappear, so measures to prevent them should be taken.
For the implementation of this system, it does not matter what equipment and what technology is used in the enterprise. But, of course, there is a certain stage in it, considering which it is possible to understand whether there is a need for new equipment.
At the initial implementation stage of the system there is no need for space technologies. You can obtain modern equipment, but if you do not know how to manage this food safety system, it will not work. True, the equipment that I saw in Tajikistan is a bit outdated but it still manufactures a product and one can work on it.
We saw several Tajik enterprises and I would not say that there is something wrong with them. Surely, if you go on for large volumes, then yes, with the existing equipment it will already be difficult. Such as milk factories. They are the primary food exports and they need modern equipment to increase the scale of production.
I am very pleased to note that Tajik enterprises are gradually realizing the importance of appropriate standardization of their products and are already beginning to implement such systems as HACCP and Global GAP. The process is on. For example, there is Shiri Dushanbe dairy processing plant in Dushanbe. Their products comply with ISO22000 standards. This is another level, also HACCP, but with more stringent requirements. They are doing it while others are just getting ready for it.
As far as I know, there are several trained consultants who work with entrepreneurs and help in implementing such systems, that means there is a progress and there is a need for professional training of specialists. ”
For more information on the Project and the contacts visit: http://www.namsb.tj/hecafs
The opinion expressed in this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.