The day Tajik apricots will reach global markets… and how to get there

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Filed under: Poverty

Apricot farmers and entrepreneurs in Tajikistan - women and kids

Tajikistan recently celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence with great fanfare, plenty of new buildings inaugurated, and a new record: the tallest flag pole on earth!

As a result, when strolling the streets of Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital city, it is easy to forget that 47 percent of Tajiks live on less than $2 a day (World Bank). However, as soon as you get out of the capital, and into the provinces, the lack of infrastructure becomes obvious.

The Sughd region in the North of the country is a case in point. The region, home to over two million people (more than a quarter of the total population), is connected to Dushanbe by a road which is often closed in winter due to weather conditions. Villages and cities experience harsh power rationing every winter, as the mostly hydroelectric-powered country is unable to cope with the demands for energy due to water freezing (see: Energy and Communal Services in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for recent data). Irrigation channels require constant repair and are unable to fully satisfy the demand from agriculture – the most important economic sector of the country after aluminum production. Currently product yields and quality are low, making it difficult to get good prices in wholesale markets and to establish contracts with processors – which would make a world of difference to farmers.

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Panama finishes with unexpected progress – advancing us towards Durban

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Filed under: Climate change Environment

windmills

In the final two days of climate talks in Panama, delegates managed to produce all the texts needed for Durban – with some more advanced than others. The most advanced issues were related to agreement on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), a Climate Technology Centre, and agriculture.

Some texts are still just a compilation of all the positions of the countries and will need much more work in Durban. But there are texts going to Durban. Delegates all but exhausted the technical issues, and the next steps will be political – to be carried forward by ministers in Durban. These will have to be awfully big steps in order to reach a much needed global climate change agreement.

Parties were encouraged to use the time between now and Durban to find a solution on the remaining areas of disagreement and to work on streamlining the texts.

* See Daniela and Gabriela’s previous posts from Panama:

Country expectations on the table at Panama climate talks

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Filed under: Climate change

2010 earth heat map

2010 – warmest year on record in last 131 years

With one day left to go, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done in preparation for COP17 in Durban. Thankfully, a couple issues have moved forward. Countries are now close to a common understanding of what should be supported to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+): There is a general agreement that money should come from a broad range of sources: private and public sources, market and non-market mechanisms, as well as multilateral and bilateral funds. Some also suggested that a special window for REDD+ be created under the currently unfolding Green Climate Fund.

Another area that’s moving fast is the Climate Technology Centre and Network. So far, countries have agreed to bring this to Durban, and are sharing many ideas, but not worrying about the text just yet. Those who have followed climate change negotiations over the years know that drafting is a first step, and a sign of progress.

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What’s the link between reducing poverty and protecting the environment?

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Filed under: Development Environment Poverty

Reporting back from the Astana ‘Environment for Europe’ Ministerial Conference

Tajik women discuss links between poverty and environment

Tajik women discuss links between poverty and environment

According to the 2010 Millennium Development Goals report for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in 2009, 36  percent of the population in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, or about 160 million people, were considered poor or at risk of poverty, living on less than $5 per day.

In addition, UNDP’s regional human development report estimated that 35 percent of people in our region are excluded from society – from economic life, social services, and social networks and civic participation.

How people live in harmony (or not) with the environment and natural resources also plays a role in addressing social exclusion and reducing poverty.

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Agile development: What human development can learn from software development

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Filed under: Development 2.0

A recent post from Eva Schiffer on “agile international development” prompted me to share more widely some reflections I have been brooding on for quite a while on the very same topic.

What can UNDP (and others in the human development business) learn from web 2.0 startups? That iterative, adaptable “agile” processes can provide exponential improvement in the success and relevance of development work, while dramatically reducing risk of project failure.

First a bit of background on software development processes:

In the “old days” software development was a very high-risk, somewhat mysterious proposition. Computers (and programmers) were rare and expensive, errors were hard to find and correct, and most of the application logic had to be fully designed months or even years before the app would finally be available for use in the real world. This lengthy, serialized process was pretty inefficient, and made software development a major, risky undertaking where the outcomes were “generalized,” only indirectly linked to measurable results.

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How on Earth? Live from climate change negotiations in Panama

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Filed under: Climate change

Panama climate change meeting

Climate change negotiations have reconvened in Panama in an attempt to resolve as many issues as possible before Durban (COP 17) – including technology, guidelines for adaptation plans, capacity building and financing (the Green climate fund).

What’s really on everyone’s mind: What comes after Kyoto?

After two days of climate negotiations in a humid and tense atmosphere in Panama, and with the conference in Durban looming overhead, optimism is limited. The political issues behind the negotiations were clear from opening statements on the weekend: When it comes to a second commitment period or a global climate change agreement, Parties are digging in their heels on their respective positions.

The problem is that their pledged CO2 emission reductions are far from what’s necessary to keep the rising global temperature below two degrees Celsius.

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Digital signatures in Uzbekistan: change happens one person at a time

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Governance

Local governments in Uzbekistan go digital

Local governments in Uzbekistan go digital

Imagine going to your local government office and the official you are talking to uses hand-written forms to record information – no matter what the importance or complexity of the task at hand.

This is the situation in many local government offices in Uzbekistan. Not only is this process slow and painstaking – making the analysis and publishing of information extremely difficult – but it also draws focus and energy away from other, more important tasks. Filling in numerous forms by hand often causes challenges in ensuring quality and reliability of data. Also, because paper-based practices restrict use of modern electronic data-aggregating software, local authorities may see a limited picture of the current state of affairs.

To address this situation, the project I manage is helping to introduce an e‐document management system throughout district, city and regional Khokimiyats (the local executive bodies in Uzbekistan) in Djizak and Namangan. A total of 27 regional government offices!

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Renewing Kyrgyzstan’s South

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Filed under: Governance Guest posts

A man restores a swimming pool in Blagoveschenka, where the UNDP project resulted in the creation of 35 jobs to renovate this ethnically-diverse village. Photograph: Tynymgul Eshieva/Open Society Foundations.

A man restores a swimming pool in Blagoveschenka, where the UNDP project resulted in the creation of 35 jobs to renovate this ethnically-diverse village. Photograph: Tynymgul Eshieva/Open Society Foundations.

This year the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the Soros Foundation–Kyrgyzstan, launched 117 projects to help revitalize Kyrgyzstan’s south. The initiative was a continuation of UNDP projects from 2010 aimed at stabilizing income and providing aid to victims of the June 2010 conflict in Osh that left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.

Local authorities in Osh identified the scope of work, formed groups of workers, distributed payments, and provided security. UNDP provided the necessary materials, technical oversight, and conducted monitoring and evaluation of the projects. Groups of about 30 to 40 people at each building site received salaries of 300 Soms ($6.60) per day.

We traveled to the south to see the projects firsthand and meet with participants.

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A wise investment: turning kids into environmental stewards

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Filed under: Environment

A wise investment: turning kids into environmental stewards

Young and informed in Ukraine

 

The most interesting trainings I’ve ever conducted have been with kids. They are the most demanding, high energy, and rewarding audience if you want to achieve long lasting change.

Over the last seven years, they have been part of our campaigns to raise awareness of preventing HIV, promoting gender equality, saving energy, and advocating for consumer rights.

For this, we partnered with our 29 partner municipalities as well as UNAIDS, and UNICEF.

This year, kids are also part of our Every Drop Matters project that aims to educate young students about responsible use of water resources. We want them to know that they can make a difference by being aware of their own individual impact on the environment. The Every Drop Matters project is funded by Coca Cola.

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Information matters, let’s get Central Asian farmers online

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Poverty

SMS on price of cotton

Who has access to information and who doesn’t makes a huge difference in the 21st Century. Those who have limited access to timely market information are facing problems identifying market opportunities and finding sellers or buyers.

This is especially true in agrarian economies such as in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan where more than half of the population lives in rural areas, with most working in the agricultural sector. Access to online market prices and information sharing are critical for sustainable development of agricultural production,

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