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Empowering local livelihoods at the crossroads of Central Asia - In 2011, ACTED celebrated its fifteenth year in Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet republics. Since the end of the civil war in 1997, Tajikistan has suffered from a weak economic framework, deteriorating infrastructure, and frequent natural disasters. The country has become ever more reliant on foreign aid and remittances. ACTED has continued to work at the community level implementing projects that focused on improving rural livelihoods, through economic development and disaster risk reduction. Additionally ACTED has adopted a strong regional approach for its projects looking to build on the future framework of the New Silk Road in Central Asia.
Safeguarding and strengthening rural livelihoods
Tajikistan is a country of awe-inspiring mountains and home to the high Pamir plateau often called the ‘Roof of the World’. However, it is also tested by some of nature’s harshest elements. Earthquakes, floods, mudflows, and landslides threaten the urban and rural populations. One of ACTED’s main tasks in 2011 was to enhance the preparedness and response of communities and emergency response services in the region in order to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. To this end, ACTED carried out a number of projects which enhanced local capacities to respond in the event of an emergency, and to implement mitigation projects that safeguard livelihoods and natural ecosystems. Additionally, ACTED has employed participatory techniques to garner the support of local communities in preserving key ecological zones to combat the negative effects of climate change. Disaster mitigation, though, is not the sole aspect of ACTED’s interventions. Most of the target population (approximately 70%) earn a living working in the agricultural sector. However, out-of-date Soviet farming techniques coupled with a centralized approach to agrarian production continue to hamper the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their communities. Throughout 2011, ACTED has continued its highly successful rural development programme. Agricultural exhibitions took place throughout the different seasons and provided a unique forum where local businesses and cooperatives were able to establish mutual relations, and review the products offered by the country’s expanding base of micro-finance institutions. ACTED agricultural specialists also continued to support farmers to set up agricultural cooperatives and develop their expertise and knowledge of new crop production and processing techniques as well as agro-business management and marketing.
Encouraging regional cooperation
As stated above, agro-development formed a fundamental part of ACTED’s poverty reduction projects in the Tajik-Afghan border districts during 2011. An implicit goal was to take advantage of the free economic zones along the border regions of Tajikistan and ensure that local agricultural development was integrated into wider regional trade between Tajikistan and its neighbour. However, cross-border initiatives were not confined solely to the agricultural sector – in 2011, ACTED finished construction of health centres in border villages – nor were projects restricted to working with ACTED Afghanistan. Indeed, ACTED Tajikistan continued to partner with ACTED Kyrgyzstan on a number of its long-term regional initiatives. During this period ACTED contributed to improved coordination between the emergency services in both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on DRR through the signature of a landmark interstate agreement. ACTED also continued its efforts to channel migrant remittances into local development initiatives. In addition to this, ACTED also established a number of training and re-integration centres for migrants in both countries to harness the human capital of potential and returning migrants. Additionally, ACTED supported the cross-border initiatives of the Bactria Cultural Centre in Kyrgyzstan in 2011, and also provided full and extensive support towards Bactria’s mission of increasing access to culture, information, and vocational training in Central Asia. The regional strategy has thus had a broad scale approach encompassing community and government level efforts in various sectors that are at all times linked with the need to improve local livelihoods in the region as a whole
Reviving the Silk Road
Building on successful cross border initiatives ACTED Tajikistan is adopting a regional approach for future activities in the Silk Road corridor. The Silk Road was the term for the trade route linking the diverse regions of the Afro-Eurasian landmass. With the advent of the modern nation state and the borders that define it, traders were no longer free to roam the Central Asian expanse. ACTED believes that true economic achievements in the region hinge on fusing modern ideas with the essence of the Old Silk Road. ACTED also believes it is imperative to ensure that rural communities are able to benefit from the new communication routes, new infrastructure, and new trade corridors that will link Central Asia. A number of economic and geo-political factors provide good opportunities for both micro and macro level regional economic growth. With timely and effective action ACTED will link future economic growth with the poverty reduction strategy of Tajikistan. ACTED will continue to support and improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable sectors of the population (including local farmers, craftsmen/women, and tradesmen/women) helping them to integrate into the nexus of the New Silk Road. ACTED Tajikistan’s focus in 2012 will be to use the experience it has gained to strengthen the position of vulnerable Tajik citizens along the revamped trade route, and, in doing so, contribute to this growing regional initiative.
Partners in 2011
Asian Development Bank (ADB), Conseil Général de Belfort, EuropeAid, French Embassy, European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Japan Fund For Poverty Reduction (JFPR), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), The Christensen Fund (TCF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), US Embassy, World Health Organisation (WHO), World Food Program (WFP).