Members' Voices: Abduvohid Safarov, Anahita


This latest Members’ Voices feature explores the intricate connection between culture and resilience in an interview with Abduvohid Safarov, Director of Anahita, a Tajikistan-based member of the Mountain Partnership. Anahita's impactful work unfolds in the mountainous Yaghnob Valley and Zafarabad district, where they collaborate closely with the Indigenous Yaghnoby community. Together with the communities and their volunteers, Anahita champions cultural diversity, striving to preserve the unique language and invaluable knowledge of the Yaghnoby Peoples.

What is Anahita and what does it aim to accomplish?

Anahita is a not-for-profit volunteer organization that was established in 2009 in the Republic of Tajikistan. Our mission is to improve the economic rights of rural mountain communities, develop humanitarian aid projects, promote a healthy life, provide legal support, and protect the environmental and cultural diversity in the mountainous landscapes of Tajikistan.

Please tell us about the mountain area where Anahita works.

Anahita’s main area of focus is the Yaghnob Valley, where the Yaghnoby people have successfully preserved their ancient Sogdian language and culture despite facing adversities historically.

The Yaghnob Valley, with its unique linguistic and cultural heritage, has deep roots in the ancient Central Asian state of Sogdiana. Until 1970, the Yaghnoby people spoke the ancient Sogdian language and maintained their cultural identity. Forced evictions during the Soviet era disrupted their lives, but in 1990, efforts were made to reestablish villages. However, due to destroyed homes and a lack of infrastructure, only about 500 Yaghnoby people returned to the valley while the majority settled in Zafarabod.

How does Anahita's work contribute to the sustainable mountain development of Tajikistan's mountain areas?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Anahita initiated the project "Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Development in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic". It aimed to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainable livelihoods, build local community capacity, and encourage entrepreneurial initiatives to ensure sustainability in crisis conditions.

Efforts included creating protected areas, implementing sustainable and responsible harvesting practices, and habitat restoration for long-term species and ecosystem survival.

We also provided training in sustainable agriculture and supported alternative income-generating activities such as ecotourism or crafts made from eco-friendly materials. This empowered communities to take charge of their own development and become active agents in addressing environmental challenges. Additionally, by diversifying income sources, communities became less dependent on fragile ecosystems and more resilient to future crises.

Could you share one of Anahita's success stories with us that improved the livelihoods of mountain communities?

Anahita has been the sole advocate for the Yaghnoby People and their language, culture and traditions since 2009. With support from The Christensen Fund, we implemented projects to encourage cultural diversity and safeguard the distinct identities of the Yaghnoby People.

One notable achievement was the creation of the Yaghnob National Nature Park through collective efforts involving Anahita, the Yaghnoby community, the Government of Tajikistan and other stakeholders. The park is crucial to conserving the unique ecosystem and species of the Yaghnob Valley. It serves as a sanctuary for various flora and fauna that are endemic to the region.

Moreover, the establishment of the park brings positive effects to local communities. By promoting ecotourism, it not only creates employment opportunities but also generates income for residents, promoting sustainable livelihoods. Furthermore, the park preserves the ancestral knowledge and practices of the Yaghnoby community, ensuring that future generations can continue to learn and appreciate their history and traditions.

Lastly, the park also acts as a buffer against natural disasters, helping to mitigate the impact of environmental hazards, such as floods and landslides, which are common in the region. Through sustainable land management practices, the park contributes to the resilience of the surrounding areas, protecting both human and natural communities.

How does Anahita collaborate with local communities to preserve and promote their traditional mountain knowledge?

The first step to forming partnerships is through truly understanding the traditional knowledge systems of the Yaghnoby People. We do this by conducting collaborative research projects that involve the community as well as organizing workshops and creating platforms for knowledge sharing.

Documenting traditional practices is also crucial. Through interviews, audiovisual recordings and written documentation, we assist the community in preserving their cultural heritage. Utilizing this material, we have published a book, produced documentaries, written articles and organized discussions on the Yagnoby language in collaboration with the Academy of Science of the Republic of Tajikistan during International Mother Language Day.

In addition to documentation, we believe in fostering intergenerational learning and the transmission of traditional knowledge. To achieve this, Anahita offers mentorship programmes, facilitates cultural exchanges and establishes educational initiatives. Through these programmes, we encourage older generations to pass on their traditional knowledge to younger members of the community.

What does Anahita hope to gain from being part of the Mountain Partnership?

Being part of the Mountain Partnership gives us access to valuable knowledge about mountain regions, ecosystems, communities and challenges. Collaborating with other members of the Mountain Partnership enhances our capabilities, allowing us to provide more comprehensive services to mountain communities.

We aim to contribute to the awareness and advocacy for the conservation and sustainable development of mountain regions in Tajikistan, aligning with the broader goal of promoting environmental consciousness and responsible practices.

Read the full story on the Mountain Partnership's Exposure

Photos by Abduvohid Safarov

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