The European Union and Aga Khan Foundation Partner for Rural Development in Tajikistan
High in the mountains of Central Asia, villagers can only dream of easy access to water for drinking and irrigation, as the river waters glisten in the snaking valleys below. That dream is about to become a reality as the European Union and the private, not-for-profit Aga Khan Foundation team together to promote agricultural development and improve access to clean and safe drinking water in Tajikistan’s Zarafshonvalley, a region characterized by mountain ranges with peaks reaching 4,000 – 5,000 meters high. The EU and Aga Khan Foundation have provided €16.6 million to support the INVEST Rural Development Program, which aims to address the challenges faced by the residents of the Zarafshonvalley, one of the poorest regions in Central Asia.
Situated in the Sughd region of far western Tajikistan, the picturesque Zarafshon valley features a unique geography with one of Central Asia’s longest glaciers, and a history of human habitation going back far into antiquity. This topography presents significant challenges in terms of infrastructure development, access to essential resources, and agricultural productivity.
The INVEST Rural Development Program focuses on enhancing agricultural productivity, promoting sustainable land management practices, and improving access to essential resources such as water and energy. The program is designed to foster economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability in the region.
One of the primary challenges faced by the residents of the Zarafshon Valley is the lack of access to clean and safe drinking water. The region’s water resources are limited, and many households do not have direct access to reliable water supply systems. This issue is further exacerbated by aging infrastructure, the impacts of climate change, and the region’s mountainous terrain.
The Aga Khan Foundation has played an instrumental role in the implementation of the INVEST Rural Development Program, working closely with local communities and authorities to ensure the project’s success. The AKF has a long history of engagement in Central Asia, focusing on community-driven development initiatives that address the unique challenges faced by the region.
Drawing on AKF’s long-standing relationships with mountain communities through its Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, as well as the targeted expertise of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), the INVEST program 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 program will also provide specialized agricultural support. Together, the project aims to reach more than 380,000 people in Zarafshon Valley over five years.
Throughout the first year of the project, INVEST will introduce and implement a variety of locally led development activities, including forest and pastureland restoration, organizing permaculture activities for local schools, constructing greenhouses and chicken coops, distributing seeds, connecting homes with drinking water and building public toilets.
“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,”Anwar Yakubi, Deputy Governor of the Sughd Province, said.
AKF, the EU, and partners will work closely with the Government of Tajikistan to implement the project, supporting its recent reforms in the agricultural and water sectors. Representatives from the government, AKF, AKAH, AKHS and the EU inaugurated the program on February 8, 2023 at the launch meeting in Dushanbe. “The EU is honored to be working with the government in supporting national efforts towards developing the rural area and supporting agrarian reforms,” saidZulfiyaDavlatbekova, representative of the EU. “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.”