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A micro-loan organisation, working with a co-operative to produce energy saving products for homes in Tajikistan, has been named a Finalist in this year’s World Habitat Awards.

‘Warm Comfort’ and energy-saving microloans is helping to tackle poverty in the Gorno-Badakhshan region and protect residents from the cold by issuing small loans to pay for energy-saving home improvements.

Winters in this remote mountainous region are long and very cold. Staying warm is expensive for the area’s 250,000 inhabitants. Employment opportunities are scarce and, unable to afford improvements to their homes, most people live in poorly insulated properties in a state of disrepair.

The Warm Comfort loans, issued by women-led micro finance company Madina va Hamkoron, are capped at USD$500 and repaid over 12 months at 2.5 per cent interest. Payments are made directly to specially trained local carpenters from the Zindagi co-operative, who assess the work required and manufacture products locally to keep costs down.

Up to January 2018, 960 loans had been issued for the installation of items such as thermally insulated doors and windows, and energy-efficient stoves, furnaces and water heaters. Households recoup the cost of their loan in savings on energy bills within two years on average.

The scheme improves customers’ health and wellbeing and provides much-needed work for more than 70 carpenters. It also helps protect the environment by drastically reducing the need for firewood.

Demand for the loans is high and Madina va Hamkoron plans to raise additional capital so more people can benefit from a warmer, more comfortable home.

Shukrikhudoev Komil, who used his loan to buy new windows and doors, said: “The windows we had before let heat out because they had a lot of flaws. Heating our home consumed a lot of fuel. Quality windows were sold at the market but we could not afford to buy in cash. Fortunately, we received a short-term loan with low interest. We were then able to purchase windows and doors, which are made with new technology. They keep the heat in the house for a long time. Our fuel consumption has decreased significantly. We only have to heat our home once or twice a day.”

David Ireland, Director of World Habitat, said: “This project has provided a much-needed system for people on low incomes to afford to pay for essential energy improvements in their homes in a remote and often forgotten part of the world.”

The World Habitat Awards Advisory Group said: “This has had a massively impressive impact in a challenging context. They have managed to create jobs out of thin air, by creating a market from scratch.”

Each year the World Habitat Awards are presented to ten of the most outstanding and innovative housing projects from across the world. In 2018 over 200 projects and programmes entered the Awards.

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