Evan Gill, Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A.’s Executive Research  Analyst, recently returned from a trip in the Kyrgyz Republic where she visited beneficiaries of the Aga Khan Foundation’s Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP). The program works in several areas in rural development, spanning community development, enterprise development, natural resource management, engineering and policy and evaluation.

Evan enjoyed traveling, meeting beneficiaries from this program and learning how it was improving their lives: “I was amazed by the great work I saw from MSDSP in its market development and natural resource management projects. I could see the pride that entrepreneurs took in describing their products, from poultry and seed potatoes to cakes and regionally recognized local craft art. It’s inspiring to see a program that helps individual businesses become drivers for an entire community’s growth.”

birds 2One MSDSP beneficiary that Evan met was Ulan Tailalkov, a hard-working local farmer in Alai, Kyrgyz Republic. Before working with MSDSP, Ulan was a small-scale entrepreneur raising a small number of hens, rearing a few cows and keeping several beehives in his backyard. Through its Market Development Programme, MSDSP invested in one of Ulan’s enterprises to help him develop a more sustainable and profitable business.

In 2010, Ulan received a grant of a mini-incubator and training in poultry production. With a new incubator capable of holding 900 eggs, Ulan significantly increased his annual production. After learning about best practices in poultry husbandry at MSDSP training, Ulan gained the knowledge and skills to farm eggs with a 90-95% hatch rate.

Ulan’s poultry farming is now his most profitable enterprise. With the earnings, he plans to buy additional land to expand into a large-scale poultry farm. MSDSP is also helping farming entrepreneurs like Ulan in other districts of the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan improve their businesses. This results in increased household incomes and provides more jobs that help the communities around them.

The Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP) was initiated by the Aga Khan Foundation in 2003 with the goal to improve living conditions in select mountain communities in the country. The MSDSP invests in rural infrastructure to help communities to establish economic opportunities and access basic health and education services. The program area includes the mountainous districts of Alai, Chong-Alai and Kara-Kulja in Osh Oblast, as well as Naryn and At-Bashy districts in Naryn Oblast, covering a total population of more than 320,000. By the end of 2009, MSDSP supported the construction and repair of more than 120 infrastructure projects, including kindergartens, irrigation canals and drinking water supply systems.

Stay tuned in a future blog posting for another story from Evan’s trip to the Kyrgyz Republic where she met Marina, a local baker who–with the support of MSDSP–is now running a school cafeteria that nourishes over 500 children everyday.