Freitag, 30. November 2007

The difficulties to set up “Pilot Projects for Watershed Management”

I work here in Muminabad within the project “Natural Disaster Risk Management”, implemented by Caritas (Switzerland?). This project originates from the former “Riverbank Protection” Project whose aim was mainly hard measures, such as construction works to mitigate natural disasters like floods, mudflows etc. So called “soft measures” like ALS- and PRA- workshops were held in villages in the field of disaster preparedness.
Currently, at the end of the first phase of the project, “pilot projects for watershed management” are planned. These should be conducted in the fields of soil and water conservation, alternative energy supply, improved use of natural resources, pasture management… short: disaster prevention.
Unfortunately the former project coordinator of the project resigned shortly before my arrival. The new project coordinator arrived one week after me and had little knowledge of the project too.

The assumed available interest-groups, turned out as non- existent or poorly prepared. The very promising recommendations and studies seemed not easy to transfer to action on the spot.
I have visited many different sites, held meetings with ministries (district authorities?) and villagers to get more sensitive to their concerns and to find interest-groups for the pilot projects.

Some people showed a lot of interest in the idea of constructing a solar oven to have an alternative to bake bread which plays a very important role in everyday life of Tajik people.
Concerning all the relevant points for a promising implementation I have a good feeling for this project. The only problems that remain is that a lot of material needed for the construction of the reflector, are not available in Tajikistan and that it seems hard to find a master who is able to do such a precise work.

In other projects I’m struggling with, a lot of awareness has to be built, to make sure the sustainability of the project at an early stage. Such projects are about plantation of trees for shade/shadow in the pasture, fodder and SWC concerns in degraded? Pasture grounds.

I’m still confident to realize some good projects, but time is passing by and makes a proper and careful planning, which can be a key to successful implementation, a hassle.
Fulfilling the of schedule but not getting hasty, achieve a proper design but not getting to stubborn in combination with handling different customs, seems to be more difficult as I thought.

Soon winter comes and the people reduce their activities to hold out the cold season. This might result in reduced progress of the pilot activities.
It was very ambitious, but sometimes I think also a bit blue-eyed to propose these projects to be done in half a year. Especially with the unfavorable and maybe unforeseen circumstances mentioned above.

My conclusion to the present situation is to make a break during the coldest month of the winter. Not to waste costly working days, to refuel my resources, let the winter pass and to enjoy the cold season. The project coordinator will have time to catch up with his tasks and to accompany me on the next steps to fulfill the project goals in a good manner.

Donnerstag, 29. November 2007

Daily News

The life of Ghioz, the driver

Ghioz works for our project as driver. Previously, before the collapse of the Soviet Union he used to work as geographer. At the beginning of the independence of Tajikistan, during the civil war he was unemployed and led the livestock to the pastures as shepherd. After the disturbances he headed to Russia during summer to work as labourer on construction sites.
Since some months he works for CARITAS as driver. He definitely overqualified for this job but it is by far one of the best jobs in town. Compared to a salary from a Teacher with 30 USD, which is by far not enough to support one’s family, the 180 USD Ghioz earns, is quiet good. Regular salary and paid holidays is what many people dreams about.

Country development

The prices for fuel, firewood, meat and wheat are heavily increasing at the moment. The prices for fuel wood increased from 5 TJS per m3, six years ago to 35 TJS per m3 today. Prices for diesel increased from 2.5 TJS to 3.2 TJS in a week. The cost of one 50kg bag of wheat, which satisfies the demand of one family in a month, has risen to 150 TJS.
Considering the lack of know-how in the field of agriculture, reduced possibilities to irrigate fields, very expensive fertilizers, and the resulting decline of wheat yields, Tajikistan faces several difficulties on its development path.
The forests get denuded with increasing speed, due to restricted electricity supply, prohibitively high prices for fuel and the lack of alternative energy sources for heating.
Examples like these are not hard to find. Similar development can be observed in the health service, in the water sector and so on.
I’m not sure where the development trend of Tajikistan points. It seems that a lot of commitment is required to change the present situation.
If not, the poverty trap will continuously dominate the picture. For me it is very difficult to say where this will lead.

My new location

Muminabad, Tajikistan

Muminabad District is situated in the south, between one of the few lowlands of Tajikistan and the foot of the Pamir mountain range. It takes about a 4 hours drive from the capital Dushanbe to reach.

The town with its 13’000 inhabitants was constructed on the accumulated fan of the watershed of Chorvodor and Kojahakik. These rivers have their sources in the Hasr Etisi range, at the foothill of the Pamir mountain range.
Muminabad is situated on a gentle slope which ends in flat agricultural land where irrigated crops like vegetables and potatoes are cultivated.
This town makes one feel more like living in a large village, with mostly single-storey, loam plastered houses, than in a city.

I share the guesthouse of Caritas Switzerland with two other Swiss guys . The project coordinator of the project “Natural Disaster Risk Management” and the junior consultant who is working in the other project implemented by Caritas, “Local Development Muminabad”, are my fellow flat mates. Our office is situated on the upper end of Muminabad, overlooking the whole town and with an incredible view towards the upper part of the watersheds.

The atmosphere in Muminabad is very laid-back and calm. Only in the bazaar and the main square near our living house it is more lively. In the morning, when we leave for work, the women are usually cleaning the bare floor in front of their houses, while the children, always well dressed, are heading to school. When we leave the office in the evening, the livestock is coming back from the grazing. It seems as if some cows know where they live, when they trot along the streets and enter to their compounds independently.

The company of Tajik people makes living in Muminabad very pleasant. One of the big differences compared with life in Switzerland is the hospitality they maintain. As a foreigner you are treated like someone really special. They don’t even have the word “foreigner”, the closest word to it is guest. That gives me reason to think about the behavior in Switzerland towards foreigners and how even politicians argue when they talk about foreigners.

When I arrived mid September, Ramadan had just started. A whole nation or more precisely spoken a whole region of the worldneither eats nor drinks during daytime for a month. In the afternoon it was almost impossible to go for field visits since people suffered from headaches and were very tired. A whole region reduces its productivity to live their religion.
The end of Ramadan was celebrated with a party lasting for tree days. Every day since then there have been a lot of weddings. . . and in the evenings one can hear the drums from the neighboring compounds. A lot of young men come back from Russia, where they spend the summers as seasonal workers, and marry the girls their parents arranged for them. Most of them are about 20 years old then.

At this point the gender gap should be mentioned. The women wear always long robes and usually headscarf. In public the women and men eat in separate places; the women in the kitchen and the men in the living room. The women bring the trousseau to the wedding and the men pay a bride price. Apart from the fact that the women comes from an equal family, the most important is that the bride is a virgin.. I’ve heard that sometimes the groom brings the bride back to her family in the morning after the wedding and asks for the expenditures spend for the wedding from the bride’s family, because she seemed not to be a virgin…

Other culture, other customs.

Donnerstag, 25. Oktober 2007

Live and direct out of the CARITAS NDRM office. Since today we have connection to the internet . It is not the fastest line, but anyway.

Prohibition time is over. We are starting the first pilot activities for a more sustainable watershed management. Here and there we will implement livestock committees to introduce grazing rotation, construction of watering points and plant more trees for shade and fodder.

On the other hand we plan to show alternative energies in form of the scheffler solar cooker. Other projectideas will need more investigation...

Montag, 20. August 2007

pleasant anticipation

testing my new blog.
i've found some interesting views on Muminabad, Tajikistan from outerspace @ NASA World Wind

There where you can see the little lake must be Muminabad. To the east you can see the Hasr' Etisi Range where the degraded Watersheds are located, and behind the yellow line who marks the border to Afganistan.

As you can see, there are many beautifull mountains surrounding the spot. With some luck they will be white in december.