Kyrgyzstan: Community development provides relief during harsh winter

During winter in a mountainous area in rural Kyrgyzstan, a woman holds a baby, with mountain peaks in the background.
A woman and baby in rural Kyrgyzstan, where harsh winters stall development. (Photo: UNDP)

The village of Kazybek, at the foot of the mountains in Naryn province, Kyrgyzstan, endures extremely harsh winters, with temperatures averaging around -20Cº and sometimes dropping as low as -40Cº.

“Previously, the kindergarten was only open during the warmer seasons and closed for nearly five months in winter” says Akylai, a young mother.

Highlights

  • A community development project in Kyrgyzstan is helping to heat schools and hospitals, boosting livelihoods during harsh winters.
  • Since 2012, more than 2300 households benefited from the programme intervention, including 68% of women.
  • Women compose 46,2% of the leaders-activists of the community based organizations in the pilot villages.

However, thanks to a new heating system installed as part of a UNDP-sponsored project, residents of Kazybek can now send their children to kindergarten throughout the winter. This allows parents, especially mothers, to spend more time generating income for their families.

"We can keep kids for almost four hours in the day now. As a next step, we are going to raise funds to purchase beds for the children to be able to keep them for a longer period", says kindergarten director Gulayim Moldakunova.

A heating system was also installed at the local hospital in Kazybek, which provides health services to approximately 5,000 people.

Before the heating system, doctors were unable to provide full medical services to patients during winter months and hospital staff had limited shifts. Now, the community has consistent access to full, basic medical services, including pediatrics and obstetrics.

These development projects are part of the UNDP-backed Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP), which works in all six Kyrgyz provinces and targets remote and isolated villages. The later phase of the programme, which began in 2012 and will operate until 2016, has a total budget of close to US$ 800,000.

Poverty is widespread in the Kyrgyz Republic, where, in 2007, an estimated 39.9 percent of the population lived below the poverty line and almost three-quarters of the poor currently live in rural areas. Naryn province is one of the poorest regions in the country.

The programme sponsors joint policy planning sessions in villages throughout Naryn province, bringing together community members and officials to discuss local priorities. Dialogue from these sessions allows residents to voice their concerns so that local needs can be incorporated into development plans.

In Kuybishev, another village in the Naryn province where residents had irregular energy access, the community received a grant to build a new transformer substation. In Uchkun, the village high school received a new heating system, so that the school's staff members no longer have to come in before dawn every morning to light a fire.

"Students would sit in coats in classrooms filled with smoke," said Ryskeldi Sydykov, the school’s logistics manager.  "When the frost came, the school had to send the children home to warm up. This affected the quality of education.”

What sets these projects apart is that they address issues that matter most to local residents.

"Communities realized that the key socioeconomic needs of young families had been ignored and marginalized, resulting in greater local poverty," says Guljigit Ermatov, UNDP Capacity Development and Knowledge Management Component Coordinator.