In recent decades, it has been difficult to invest in environmental education and capacity development in Afghanistan as priorities have lain elsewhere in a fragile state emerging from conflict. As a result, this Darwin Initiative project features a range of capacity development, education and awareness raising activities to ensure that any positive achievements can be continued in a sustainable manner.

Initial project initiation meetings coupled with field and community training exercises were conducted in Tajikistan and hosted at the Kulob Botanic Garden. Participants included representatives from ECO-A, Bamyan University, UN Environment and the Bamyan office of the National Environment Protection Agency alongside UK partners from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the James Hutton Institute. Colleagues and students from Tajikistan also took part in this training exercise.

The central theme of this project is the link between sustainable use of natural resources and the benefits this can have for both communities and the biodiversity that they depend upon. As a result, partners ECO-A have introduced this idea to the communities through holding open meetings and discussions with the Community Development Council in each village and the villagers themselves.

In order to increase skills and knowledge about the plants of Bamyan and how to monitor the effects of a reduction in collection intensity, students at Bamyan University have been trained to undertake a range of tasks including vegetation surveys, specimen collection, detailed anatomical photography as a plant identification resource, and interviewing local communities about the plants they collect and what they use them for. Long term monitoring points have been established, and as the project progresses we will discuss how to include routing monitoring in the university curriculum in order to ensure sustainability of skills acquisition.

Our partners at ECO-A have been responsible for collecting information about how the alternative fuel interventions can improve people’s lives. This is based upon years of experience of working directly with communities in Bamyan, coupled with additional training in interview techniques.

Further awareness raising activities are planned for the latter stages of the project, focusing on the positive outcomes of project activities.