The Living Legends of Nohur
13 Jan 2016 by Nazik Myradova
Project monitoring and evaluation process often focuses on outputs, numerical results and delivery in monetary value. Thus, through this blog, I would like to share what I see in terms of human impact of the project without precise numerical figures. I hope to tell the story of human beings behind the projects to demonstrate long-term effect and tell the story of the site.
The Living Legends of Nohur.
Nohur is a mountainous area in the Kopetdag mountains of Turkmenistan. Unlike many believe, Nohur is not a single village. It is a set of villages with different names. There are upper, middle and lower settlements. In total three major villages: Garry Nohur, Garagul Gala, Kone Gummez, and two satellite settlements Sowutli and Patma Yurt.
Local residents tell the story of the area saying that this was the last frontier between Turkmen tribes and Persians who tried conquering the territory of southern Turkmenistan.
Some believe that the place received its name from “Noh” (Prophet Noah) and “Ur” (to swim), which means the place where Prophet Noah landed after surviving the Great Flood. Residents of Nohur valley are also called the descendants of the Alexander the Great who left his injured soldiers in Nohur and ordered them to settle in this area. Another oral story says that the tribe originates from “those who arrived on nine donkeys. “No” in Persian is “nine” and “hur” is “donkey”. In Safavid Albeniya, nine people were put on donkeys and sent far away from the country for committed crimes. They arrived in Nohur area and settled down on this territory.
On the way to Nohur, we pass through Archman area, a national resort with healing springs. People come here for medical treatment of the digestive system. The area becomes more fascinating and feels remote from the city as we approach Nohur. There is an 2000-year-old Chynara tree a symbol of wisdom and prosperity in Turkmen culture. Nobody remembers when this tree was planted here, but it attracts many visitors from abroad and from around Turkmenistan.
Traditionally, Nohurs were involved into cattle breeding and partly in agriculture. As local aksakals (respected elders) recall, about 40 years ago, Nohur area supplied Ashgabat with potatoes and fruits. Today, residents supply mostly tomatoes and pomegranates. They also produce goat cheese and milk, but not in the amounts for export or even supply to the city. Surprisingly, they name lack of water as one of the reasons of dropped vegetable and fruit production. As we learn from the UNDP project results, availability of local springs does not guarantee stable and sufficient supply of irrigating water for farming. UNDP brought here the technology of dripping water irrigation system and created several water reservoirs to collect water during winter for summer season.
Another innovation in Nohur was farming for fruit trees which require special care and technology of "injection". Today local residents planted and successfully grew 33 hectares of apples and pears which equals to annual 30 tons of harvest. They also grow pumpkin and visit Israel to learn and adopt new experiences of farming.
But the most fascinating part of how the community of Nohur is organized is that all benefits that they receive from cooperating with the project or through any other means, such as new harvest or additional number of cattle, they share with members of the most vulnerable community first. This kind of social organization ensures sustainable growth because all members of the society are interested in prolonging the effects of the project and turning them into a stable source of income.
When we approach a household of one of the members of the community who take part in the UNDP project on improving farming practices in Nohur, we see that there are several houses in the yard. As we learn, the two houses belong to two brothers. One of them cooperates with the project on farming and grows tomatoes and pumpkin. Another is involved into cattle breeding. All cows in the region have an owner, but together with the project local residents adopt new breeds in an attempt to increase the amount of milk received from it.
I think the most amazing and inspiring part of visiting Nohur is that the local community uses its bonds to spread the benefits among themselves equally without marginalizing anyone. On the contrary, they enforce this bond as it allows them increasing their wellbeing and wealth. Working together without and prejudice makes Nohur's growth sustainable and brings real impact on the lives of each member of this community.