According to the UN Human Development Report, agricultural production “will be severely compromised by climate variability and change”. In some countries, crop production from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by as much as 50 percent by 2020. Degradation of agricultural lands will have additional spin-off effects as well, increasing livestock deaths, the risk of wildfires, soil erosion and the dislocation of local populations. A similar series of events has already taken place in eastern Tajikistan over the last two decades. When the Soviet Union collapsed and its food subsidies ended, the people of the mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan began to starve. Under the centrally planned economy, Tajikistan built a variety of goods ranging from shoes to rocket parts, but did not produce much food. Food insecurity was compounded by the removal of fuel subsidies, which led to the burning of wood, including fruit trees, to survive the winter.
By some estimates, 80 percent of the forest cover in the province was consumed for fuel. AKDN’s agencies first provided humanitarian relief, and then began the task of rebuilding the long-term food security of the region. Over the following 10 years, the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), an NGO set up and supported by the Aga Khan Foundation, began to work with Tajik communities to increase farm yields and improve crop varieties. From 15 percent in the early 1990s, food security gradually increased to 70 percent over a 10-year period.
The communities AKDN supported achieved these dramatic gains largely because development efforts were community-based and driven. That model has been expanded to over 1,150 village organisations and 60 village organisation unions, with a total of over 132,700 village members, of which 47 percent are women. AKDN also completed a number of related programmes, including reforestation efforts and the completion of the Pamir 1 hydroelectric plant.
“Climate change is affecting these areas severely, with their particularly fragile soils and shrinking glaciers... It is essential that the international community pay sufficient attention to this part of Asia: a failure to do so will almost certainly destabilise the growth and limit the overall development of the seemingly more fortunate countries that surround Central Asia.”
Statement by Prince Amyn Aga Khan at the 10th German World Bank Forum “The Asian Century: Challenges in the Economic Crisis” (Frankfurt am Main, Germany) - 20 November 2008