Welcome back to Leylek, a remote and vulnerable district of the Batken region, in southern Kyrgyzstan, near the Tajik border.
Since 2015, ACTED and the Rural Advisory Services of the Batken region (RAS-Batken) have been implementing a project to support civil society mechanisms for inclusive and sustainable growth in Leylek.
Today, we stop in Ak-Suu – meaning “white water” in the local language, referring to to the river that flows through the region, the Ak-Suu river.
Here, we meet Isbaev.
Isbaev used to work as a welder. When he heard about the possibility of getting a grant, he took his chance and applied. Few months later, he got a grant from ACTED thanks to which he opened a repair shop, the first one of its kind in Ak-Suu. He is quite proud to have paid over 30% of the total cost himself, thus participating in launching his business.
He took the time to explain what each of his machines is for, and then told us his story.
“Before, people had to go to Isfana. Isfana is really far and it is unsafe to drive to when your car has a problem.” Isfana is located 25 kilometers away from Ak-Suu, and the roads leading to Isfana are damaged. “Now, I have 20-25 people who come every day. I plan to buy some more advanced equipment.”
Isbaev is only one example: The project indeed enabled to help 23 people to develop their own business, with a double aim:
Indeed, Batken region has the highest unemployment rate of Kyrgyzstan, with 10.2% of the population being unemployed, three points higher than the national average.
People, especially youth, prefer to emigrate to Russia or Kazakhstan. Batken region is not an isolated case. Up to 2 billions dollars from migrants return to Kyrgyzstan every year, representing about 30% of the national GDP.
Insan Leilek, the oldest NGO of Leilek district and one of the project partners, aims at creating opportunities of job here in order to give some reasons to people to stay.The task is not so easy but step by step the situation is getting better. In two years, the poverty rate has significantly dropped from 41.5% to 29.2%.
ACTED’s projet played its own role: “We should have more projects like this one,” said Matluba, lucky new owner of a food mill. This Uzbek woman is an activist of the district. Well-known among the population of Leilek, she created a local NGO to help poor families. “Here, we don’t have enough civil society organisations, and those existing are weak. With the project, we have been trained.” The Leilek.kg platform has been created during the project to gather all civil society and community-based organisations of the district. “It helps us a lot. We develop relationships between each CSO. We now know each other.” These words echo the ones from Insan Leilek.
Before we were acting as 19 different organisations. Now, we are acting as a one organisation. We can go to the Local Authorities and start a dialogue about what we can do, and we are heard.
After 24-months of implementation, the project is now finished. But what the project created is staying… This is what sustainability means!