Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

Today, the hero of our story will be Mr. Gulomov Bolta, the aksakal of the village of Vardon. For 39 long years, Bolta-aka worked as a teacher at a village school, and for another five years served as the school’s principal. In retirement Bolta-aka took up horticulture and livestock production, he actively helps his large family, raises grandchildren, and, while in the position of village aksakal, tries to improve the lives of his fellow villagers.

The village of Vardon is located in close proximity to the Gissar nature reserve. There are 618 people and 118 families residing in the village, of which 240 are women. Earlier, 52 families of the rural community were allocated with 16 hectares of irrigated land, 0.2-0.5 hectares per family, to create orchards and vegetable gardens, thanks to which the villagers have been engaged in alternative activities to livestock production, such as growing trees and agriculture for the last 10 years. However, the inefficient distribution of water has worsened the existing major problem of water scarcity. Many families were unable to recover their costs and were forced to return to regular grazing, damaging the surrounding pastures. Currently, the villagers have 400 cattle and more than 1,500 small stocks, which creates a serious load on 1 000 hectares of nearby pastures.

Gulomov Bolta, the aksakal, participated in a workshop organized by our Project staff in ‘Hisor’ RCC located in the village of Vardon. Having been interested in the micro-grant programme under the UNDP/GEF and the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Ecology and Environmental Protection Sustainable natural resource and forest management in key mountain areas important for globally significant biodiversity’ project, he was very enthusiastic about the idea of improving the quality of lives of his fellow villagers through the creation of a water supply system for his village, and applied for the programme to create orchards on unused lands and a water supply system for irrigation.

In the mountains, ten kilometers above the village, there are two springs, the waters of which go underground after 40 – 50 m and are useless for feeding rivers and streams. The submitted grant application specified a solution –  to construct a water delivery system using the waters of these springs. According to the ‘Hisor’ RCC application, it was planned to transfer 23 hectares of unused land to 98 families to create orchards and vegetable gardens. However, according to the decision of the Shahrisabz district khokimiyat lands within the Project area were transferred to the ownership of the newly established Shahrisabz forest enterprise, and the ongoing Project stopped because of the disagreement between local residents and forestry staff on a number of issues.

After disputes and discussions, an agreement was reached by joint efforts between the local community and the Shahrisabz forest enterprise, according to which the forest enterprise provided land for economic use free of charge, and the local people operating in these areas helped the employees of the forest enterprise to conserve and grow trees and shrubs.

As a result of this grant application, a water delivery system was created for 36 families, and more than 25 hectares of land were developed where residents of the village of Vardon and the nearby village of Shurkhasan planted trees, and underneath they grow vegetables and clover for livestock feed. All work, such as the transportation and laying of pipes, was carried out by the joint efforts of the families, as the transport equipment could not technically enter the area at an altitude of 1,800 – 2,000 meters.

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