Photo courtesy of the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A.
This story first appeared on the Aga Khan Foundation's website and is reprinted with permission here.
Mayram K. lives in the mountains of Tajikistan. Her workload is big but typical for a woman in the mountains: cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, getting kids to school. Until a few years ago, completing her daily tasks was much harder because she and her family had electricity for only two hours a day. Tajikistan’s civil war in the 1990s left the power grid broken, and in the poorest and most remote mountain communities of Gorno-Badakhshan over half of all residents lacked power during the cruel winter months. Families relied on wood fuel for heating and cooking, respiratory disorders increased, and the region lost over two-thirds of its tree cover from 1992 to 2002.
Mayram doesn’t like to look back on that time, when hardship forced her family to make painful choices. “My husband had to cut our treasured fruit trees for firewood. One of the biggest troubles was baking bread,” she says. “We didn’t sleep at night because we could not miss those two to three hours of electricity in order to bake bread for the kids to eat the next day.”
Since Pamir Energy brought electricity, things have gotten much better. Restored by a public-private partnership between the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and the Tajik government, with World Bank and Swiss support, Pamir Energy has brought clean hydropower also to public resources in Mayram’s area, including hospitals and schools. Before, the only source for heating schools was low-quality coal, which filled classrooms with smoke and a foul smell and made students feel achy. Since 2010, hydropower has slashed the use of coal in the schools of Gorno-Badakhshan by over 80 percent.
“Electricity changed life in ways we could see with our own eyes,” Mayram says. It even allowed her to start a small business selling food from home. “From my childhood, I liked cooking. I really wanted to cook food and sell it, but when we had no electricity, that was impossible. In the last four years I have been doing the work that I really love.”
It also means new horizons for her children. “Not long ago we bought a computer for our children,” says Mayram. “All day long, they use the computer and learn many new things.”
In 2012 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. started the Cross-Border Energy project to expand Pamir Energy’s reach across the border to Afghanistan’s remote Shugnan District. This has helped to multiply electricity use there by nearly eightfold, and helps establish infrastructure for regional growth in Central Asia.
“For myself and my neighbors,” says Mayram, “I am grateful to Pamir Energy for bringing electricity and heating to our homes.”
For more about the Pamir Energy program, click here.