As part of the decentralization process in Uzbekistan, local governments and traditional community organizations are increasingly asked by the central government to mobilize local resources to maintain basic infrastructure, a task for which they have limited capacity and experience. This can compromise basic services in rural areas. In some regions there is a risk that social, economic and gender inequalities may increase.
In Uzbekistan, the honoured practice of “hashar” calls for villagers to work voluntarily for the benefit of the whole community. Recognising the value of this tradition, with UN-EU support, national authorities were able to tap into this and mobilise local people to contribute their labour, assets and equipment to rehabilitate schools or medical centres, lay gas pipes or install water pumps. They were supported by information and resource centres that became the hub of this participatory approach, providing a forum for exchange of information and expertise, and grants and credits for collective purchasing and production. The success of the centres led to the local authorities channelling funding on a more permanent basis to communities.
As a result, 260,000 people accessed clean piped water, 2,000 people benefitted from microcredit worth US$500,000 and 200 farmers in 11 cooperatives were trained in agricultural and food production, micro-irrigation and administration and business management.