Development of Social Organization in Tajikistan: MSDSP’s Approach in the Mountainous Areas
Source: Aga Khan Development Network
This paper outlines the social organisation approach adopted and applied by the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP) of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in the mountain areas of Tajikistan. The paper is divided in to three parts. The first part briefly presents the context of the pre-intervention situation. Despite heavy investments from Moscow and excellent social sector indicators, Tajikistan was the poorest republic of the Soviet Union. Its economy was predominantly agrarian. After independence in 1991, the centralised support systems broke down and the economy collapsed. The economic crisis was further accentuated by the outbreak of civil war. While many parts of the country faced food security issues, this issue was particularly severe in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) which faced famine-like conditions in 1993/94. In response to this situation, and at the request of the government, AKF established MSDSP as the first major local non-governmental organisation in the country. During the first five years, MSDSP established three major programmes, i.e. Humanitarian Assistance Programme (HAP) in 1993, the Agricultural Reform Programme (ARP) in 1994 and the Village Organisation Programme (VOP) in 1998. These programmes contributed to enhancing food security through increased local production, targeted humanitarian assistance and through diversification of agricultural activities. The second part of the paper presents a brief outline of MSDSP’s 2002-2006 strategy for building local capacities for sustainable development at the local level, built around the Village Development Planning Process (VDPP). There is a brief discussion about Village Management Planning (VMP), Village Development Fund (VDF), Village Organisation Assessment Exercise (VOAE), and learning through networking. This part highlights the importance of capacitating people and their organisations with skills and resources so that they can set their own development agenda. VOAE highlighted the importance of leadership, participation and planning, record keeping, building own development funds, and collaborations with other agencies as the key indicators. Networking with other organisations led to MSDSP learning about the importance of working at ‘below the VO’ level and ‘above the VO’ level. The importance of development as a learning process is recognised. By end of June 2004, 817 VOs had been fostered in the three regions of GBAO, Rasht Valley and Khatlon. VOs are covering 100%, 50% and 25% of rural localities in the respective regions. The third part of the paper highlights some of the challenges lying ahead with respect to further institutional strengthening of VOs, clustering of VOs, fostering linkages, improving MSDSP’s programming from gender and poverty perspectives, supporting the development of the enterprises for job creation and income generation, supporting other agencies in social sector interventions, and in developing a partnership with the First Micro Finance Bank of Tajikistan, a successor institution of the Aga Khan Development Network, to ensure that the financial needs of the community members are met on a sustainable basis. A major challenge is to work with other civil society organisations to engage with the national government for the creation of an enabling environment for unleashing the energy of social organisations to play their due roles in the socio-economic development of the country, in fostering values that recognise pluralism and diversity.