Scientist Travels to Tajikistan to Help Farmers

Tim Bowser Are plastics really the key to a successful future, as a young Dustin Hoffman was advised in The Graduate?The following story has one answer.


Dr. Timothy Bowser volunteered and was selected to spend part of his summer in Tajikistan (in Central Asia) advising small business farmers  and helping them find solutions to some of  their operational problems.  His work there became a win-win situation. 


A food process engineer, faculty member at Oklahoma State University, and member of the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board),  Bowser traveled all the way from Oklahoma to the village of Dendiston in the Khation region of Tajikistan to assist residents. The farmers benefited immensely, and so did Dr. Bowser.  “I truly enjoyed helping to improve the lives of farmers and agribusinesses in Tajikistan,” Bowser said. “An opportunity such as this is second-to-none. This international travel opportunity provided a venue for me to meet and reach out to individuals I may not have encountered otherwise.”


Bowser provided support to Oila Company, a father-sons operation that is the only small food processor in the region.  The business involves processing various types of produce, including jams, pickles, and juices, which are then sold locally.  Bowser’s academic and industrial experience enabled him to find solutions to many of the company’s problems and to introduce successful practices to Oila.


Pouch Filling One big problem that this small business had was losing product when containers broke in transport. “Oila’s products are packaged in one- and two-liter glass jars,” Bowser said. “Because of the rocky terrain, one of the biggest issues for the company is broken glass during vehicle transportation. Plastic was the answer,” Bowser explained. “I took dozens of flexible pouch samples for the company to experiment with. We spent several days identifying packaging and processes while making product.”


“Now Oila is in the process of switching to all plastic from glass,” Bowser said. “They have a goal to package all products in plastic by next year. Jams and jellies may be packed in plastic cups rather than pouches. Currently, they are conducting a shelf-life study on the pouches that we packed while I was on site. They are sourcing their own pouches from China and will also test these in shelf-life studies.”


Other topics discussed with the farmers during Bowser’s stay there were product development, labeling, and personal and plant sanitation.  


Bowser’s travel was funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the CNFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program (FTF). The CNFA is an international agricultural development organization that works in more than 20 countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central and South Asia.  CNFA is one of several organizations that administer FTF.  CNFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program is authorized and funded by the U.S. Congress.


“CFNA’s long-term projects seek to develop private farmer associations, cooperatives, private agribusiness, women’s groups, and other organizations that help farmer and agribusinesses increase their incomes and well-being,” Bowser said. “CNFA seeks to strengthen all links in the market chain, from input supply and production to post-harvest handling, marketing, and sales.”


In volunteering to assist the FTF, Bowser became the 16th individual that the organization sent to Tajikistan this year. He also joined the ranks of more than 1,300 volunteers in the CNFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program since 1993.  “This program offered two cultures the chance to learn about each other, create working relationships and foster lasting connections,” Bowser said.


For more information about CNFA and the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, check out these links:


Bowser’s position at Oklahoma State University is split between research and extension.  These are some of the interesting projects he has worked (or is working) on:


- Reducing the carbon footprint of dehydration processes

- Designing methods for direct steam cooking

- Developing improved roasting equipment for coffee

- Using natural antioxidants to preserve processed meats

- Designing facilities and processes for organic snack food production

- Developing a dehydration and coating process for sliced fruit


In addition to his busy career, Dr. Bowser has also generously volunteered his time and expertise to help Shelf Life Advice develop a website with informative, scientifically accurate information about the shelf life and safe handling of foods and related topics.  Here are links just a few of the many Shelf Life Advice articles that Dr. Bowser has contributed to:—what-you-need-know“foodie”-mean-it-depends-whom-you-ask  




Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center  “FAPC-OSU Faculty Returns from Central Asia Agricultural Volunteer Program”


Email exchanges with Dr. Bowser  


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