Success story: Community members taking action in Uzbekistan

Originally published
The tension level between the government and citizens in Charmgar, a densely populated community in southern Uzbekistan, used to be so high that it frequently resulted in anger and arguments. The community had poor infrastructure and limited employment opportunities. Citizens and government officials did not openly communicate with each other, and neither side trusted the other.
In the summer of 2003, Charmgar was selected to participate in the Community Action Investment Program (CAIP), designed and implemented by CHF International. The program involves the democratic election of a Community Improvement Council (CIC), which receives capacity building training, assistance at improving information exchanges and the distribution of small community development grants. Working together with the government and local citizens, the Charmgar CIC members defined and prioritized their most pressing problems as their shortage of basic medical care, lack of a community meeting places, high unemployment rates and unavailability of electricity.

After selecting the initial CAIP community development project -- a first aid center -- Charmgar residents petitioned the local government for public land on which to construct the building. Initially, the CIC members had difficulty persuading the local government to support them in their activities. Early skepticism was eventually overcome, and the local government eventually donated a deserted piece of land that was formerly a landfill. By mobilizing volunteers, the CIC and community residents cleaned the old landfill and made the land usable for the first aid center.

Using skills learned through CAIP trainings, community leaders collected cash contributions and organized construction labor and lodging. This project created seven long-term jobs and has provided community members with access to medical treatment.

"When we began implementing the second CAIP project, a community economic and social center, citizens became more active and concerned about development in our community," said CIC member Hakulova Barno. The project was a four-room community center that housed a youth center, a barbershop, a community-meeting hall and a shoe repair shop. Seeing the local citizens' motivation, the local government gave them support in approving all project documents and regulatory issues. When construction was finished, the local government and citizens contributed US$200 for the purchase of equipment for the center.

Successful implementation of these two CAIP projects, as well as a third electricity project, is evidence that citizens and government can work together in solving their problems. Working closely with residents, the local government has recently allocated more than US$10,000 to implement a gas supply project that will benefit approximately 600 citizens.

Through the financial and technical support of CAIP, CIC members managed to mobilize the majority of community residents in developing community infrastructure and improving living standards. The most positive result was that they were able to reduce tension and involve the government, developing a long-lasting social partnership. The impact will further contribute to dialogue between citizens and their governments, giving enhanced attention to economic, social and youth problems.

In addition to the one in Charmgar, CHF International has created 71 other CICs in rural and urban communities throughout southern Uzbekistan, assisting in the development of over 220 small infrastructure projects and helping to establish dozens of microenterprises.