So did I fly to the Pamir Invest conference in Khorog or take the highway? – the plane only has a capacity of 17 so we were very lucky to secure tickets and take one of the most extraordinary commercial flights in the world.
The Pamir Mountain range is part of the Western Himalaya and features several peaks over 7000m – much of the flight is below the peaks and surprisingly close to the mountain face!
But on to work, I went to Khorog to attend Pamir Invest and to help support with communications.
What is Pamir Invest 2014
Pamir Invest 2014 is an International Investment Forum to promote the development of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) and surrounding highland regions of Tajikistan, attract investment to businesses operating within the region and promote wider regional trade and economic cooperation.
Part of the agenda is a ‘Dragons Den’ event where local small and medium size enterprise entrepreneurs pitch their investment opportunities in the hope of securing the capital to enable them to develop their business – people like Ozod.
In 2004 Ozod started a business with his wife making preserves with the abundant fruit available in the summer. He has a tiny workshop and produces everything by hand, if he and his wife work throughout the night they can produce 32 jars of jam – he currently produces about 4000 a year. Without refrigeration he is only able to work for 6 months of the year. He would like to expand and buy some equipment to increase his output to 10,000 jars and allow him to produce all year round but he needs USD 20,000 and the bank will only give a very short term loan at high rates of interest.
He didn’t secure investment on the day but it is hoped that events like Pamir Invest will encourage investors to make a commitment to the region and develop micro finance projects so that people like Ozod can use their huge amount of enthusiasm and commitment to improve not only his life but that of the whole community.
The Pamir Highway follows paths forged long ago by the ancient Silk routes, when that precious commodity travelled from China to European and Arabian markets and traded goods returned in its stead, modern day trade continues via large Chinese trucks that somehow manage to traverse the most primitive of roads. It was this route we took to return to Dushanbe, two days and a total of 800 kilometres, every centimetre of which was spectacular. As we hugged the road on the Tajik side of the river most of what we saw was Afghanistan – where in all I saw one ancient truck, one mini bus and a man on a donkey as the only transport for the entire journey.