On 8 February 2023, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and the European Union (EU) launched a new €16 million programme to improve natural resource management and living conditions in Zarafshon Valley in Tajikistan’s mountainous northwest. Part of the EU’s Rural Development Programme, INVEST – Integrated Natural Resources Management in Zarafshon Valley for Equitable and Sustainable Development – represents the EU’s largest ever contribution to AKF’s development work in Tajikistan.
Zarafshon Valley lies in the northwestern Sughd province, outside of the Aga Khan Development Network’s (AKDN) typical focus areas in Tajikistan. Like in many parts of the country, the landscape is mountainous, and the villages are located high up in the mountains whilst the river flows much lower down in the valley. This, coupled with a lack of infrastructure to connect the villages to the river, means that access to clean and safe drinking water is an ongoing challenge. The harsh mountain terrain also makes it extremely difficult to grow crops sustainably.
Drawing on AKF’s long-standing relationships with mountain communities through its Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), as well as the targeted expertise of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), the INVEST programme will take a multi-sectoral approach to strengthen the sustainable management and protection of natural resources, boost food security and nutrition, and improve living standards. Through a partnership with a non-commercial, local cooperative, Sarob, the programme will also provide specialised agricultural support. Together, we aim to reach more than 380,000 people in Zarafshon Valley over five years.
Throughout the first year of the project, we will introduce and implement a variety of locally led development activities, including forest and pastureland restoration, organising permaculture activities for local schools, constructing greenhouses and chicken coops, distributing seeds, connecting homes with drinking water, and building public toilets.
As Mr. Anwar Yakubi, Deputy Chairman of the Sughd region notes, “the implementation of this project, covering more than €16.6 million, is a significant incentive for us to develop rural areas, in particular improving the living conditions of the population and the economic and social progress of the Zarafshon Valley.”
“The implementation of this project, covering more than €16.6 million, is a significant incentive for us to develop rural areas, in particular improving the living conditions of the population and the economic and social progress of the Zarafshon Valley.”
Mr. Anwar Yakubi, Deputy Chairman of the Sughd region, Tajikistan
AKF, the EU and partners will work closely with the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan to implement the project, supporting its recent reforms in the agricultural and water sectors. “The EU is honored to be working with the government in supporting national efforts towards developing the rural area and supporting agrarian reforms,” said Ms. Zulfiya Davlatbekova, representative of the EU. She continues, “increasing the performance of agriculture and building the resilience of rural populations will contribute to better incomes of the most vulnerable rural households, especially women and children. The European Union has provisioned €94 million in support to Tajikistan’s local communities to be implemented in 2016-2025”.
Representatives from the government, AKF, AKAH, AKHS and the EU inaugurated the programme on 8 February at the launch meeting in Dushanbe. AKF looks forward to taking this vital work forward in collaboration with our partners and the communities we serve.
By Sharofat Shafieva and Kerensa Keevill
This project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.