What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.
The Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) is the home to the Pamir Mountains and De Pamiri Handicrafts. The region, part of the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan, is well known for its majestic and isolated landscapes as well as its complex history. During Soviet control heavy subsidies and Russian migration created unprecedented population growth in the Pamirs and destabilized the precarious balance previously maintained between a nomadic people and the region’s natural resources.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan struggled to overcome the legacy of this centralized and subsidized economic system. Previous nomadic lifestyles and subsistence agricultural could no longer support the large population and there were few jobs in the newly capitalized country. In addition, Tajikistan endured a devastating civil war that began shortly after independence. Since the end of the war in 1993, Tajikistan has faced the dual challenges of reinventing its economy in a post-Soviet world and rebuilding infrastructure after years of conflict.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union, known for its strict control over art and culture, pushed for the traditions of the individual republics to be diminished and for a uniform Soviet culture to be promoted. The communist economy did not encourage innovation and citizens did not have income available to purchase crafts. Most artisans gained employment through the state and abandoned their positions as tradition bearers. There were small groups of artisans that created crafts for state purposes but most of them were confined to state approved designs and traditions. Some artisans continued to practice their craft in secret in order to keep traditions alive and pass down their skills to the next generation.
Impoverished and isolated regions such as the Pamirs have limited access to information, markets and economic opportunities and reviving traditional skills has become an important part of economic and cultural reconstruction. Rebuilding in GBAO was started in the early 1990s by the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), a local development organization which implements programs to reduce GBAO’s reliance on food aid and increase the self-reliance of local communities. In the early 2000s, MSDSP increased its attention on creating income generating enterprises in order to achieve broader and longer-term economic development in the region.
This coincided with the work of Arnaud Baobil and Yorali Berdov who begun partnering with area artisans to revive their traditions and build income opportunities. Mr. Baobil, a French citizen and development worker, and Mr. Berdov, a Tajik artist and designer, began De Pamiri Handicrafts with the support of MSDSP’s business incubator in 2004. When they first began, the most difficult challenge was to encourage artisans that their skills and talents were valuable. Mr. Berdov recounts stories of bringing shy and skeptical artisans to the marketplace to demonstrate that there was a demand for their crafts. When the products sold completely the first day, the astonished artisans were convinced that crafts, which had been hobbies and traditions until then, were an economic option for the future. With this hope in hand, De Pamiri Handicrafts was born.
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.
Yorali Berdov, the co-founder and Manager of De Pamiri Handicrafts, was born and raised in Khorog, the regional capital of the Pamir Mountains. After attending art college in Dushanbe, he returned to Khorog in the early 1990s. From then until 2004, Mr. Berdov worked as a private designer and artist. In 2004, he was approached by Arnaud Baobil to found De Pamiri Handicrafts with the support of MSDSP. Mr. Berdov signed onto DPH as Deputy Manager until 2005 when he took over the organization as Manager. As an artist himself and an advocate for Pamiri traditions, Mr. Berdov is devoted to the development of the artisan sector and the revitalization of Pamiri culture.
Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.
The unique part of our approach that the culture, traditions and crafts what we are reviving up and the things we are bringing to the tourists market was lost during the Soviet time. Some things are not even possible to revive because people lost the knowledge how to do it. The information did not pass through generation to generation. But some thing we can, and it is attractive and interesting for tourists as well as for local people. People living in Pamirs speaks unique old languages, eastern Iranian branch of Indo-European language .
In general Pamirs is a unique place for tourists because in 20 century it was close even for local people to come out or in. They did it only with the special permit from government.
We working in a unique place with the unique people and they unique culture.
What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?
Tajikistan’s long civil war placed the country years behind other Central Asian nations in terms of economic development as well as handcraft development. Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and, to a lesser extent, Kazakhstan have devoted resources to revitalizing craft traditions, improving market access and linking crafts to tourism. Tajikistan has only recently begun looking to revive craft traditions and develop craft as a source of income generation. Thus partnerships with craft organizations in other regions such as the Central Asia Craft Support Association and international organization such as Aid to Artisans would help improve the quality of and market access for Tajik craft products.