Central Asia Grant Program

The Christensen Fund

Grant amount: US $50,000 - US $100,000

Anticipated deadline: Aug 31, 2019 (Pre proposal)

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit

Funding uses: Research, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Location of residency: Preferred: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Other eligible locations: Anywhere in the world

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We support stewards of biocultural diversity with “distinct ways of co-creating beauty”. We work within montane landscapes of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to assist communities in reestablishing relationships with the land in order to revitalize biocultural diversity and support a variety of livelihoods, from the nomadic pastoralists to the montane farmers of the lush valleys of this beautiful, bountiful place.

Our Central Asia grantmaking program draws hope from the energy and innovation of sacred site guardians, farmers and pastoralist communities and a growing group of strong civil society actors. The program strategy seeks to weave together practical community and village based experiences in priority landscapes with national level efforts to document, celebrate and practice biocultural approaches while interfacing with reform processes. It grounds movements for cultural revival in practical long-term efforts to restore lifeways and landscapes.

The program combines work on village governance and institution-building; the restoration of traditional philanthropy; biocultural approaches to wildlife conservation with collaborations between stewards and specialists in agriculture and livestock, ecology, conservation science, anthropology, education, digital media, expressive arts, and policy level interventions. Some of the key areas that we focus on include ceremonies, local festivals and networking around sacred sites guardians; practical experimentation; revitalization of traditional knowledge and agroecosystems; and revival of native languages, rich oral and epic heritage, intergenerational transfer, music, dance and contemporary arts. We also support youth who are forming networked centers of biocultural diversity (BCD) on priority landscapes and in major universities.

Primary Themes and Landscapes

The Central Asia program’s primary grantmaking theme is "Living on and Sustaining Resilient Biocultural Landscapes". Within it are two sub-themes, each with its own priority landscapes.

    Felt People: This cluster of work is around nomadic pastoralists who live in mobile felt dwellings, hence their self-identification as the “people of the felt walls.” Traditional land use systems of nomadic pastoralism have been substantially eroded over seventy years of Soviet alienation through settlement, collectivization, and the industrialization of livestock production, followed by a chaotic transition to independence and the free market. Substantial efforts are now underway to re-establish reciprocal relationships between cultures, identity, livelihoods and ecology.

    The priority landscapes for this theme belong to the most ancient areas of pastoral transhumance in the world:

    • Northern and Inner Tien Shan (Issyk Kul, Naryn, and adjacent areas as necessary of Northern Kyrgyzstan), imporant for its alpine meadows, and
    • The Murghab Plateau of the Eastern Pamirs in Tajikistan, important for its unique arid ecosystem at an elevation above 4,000m.

    Innovative Dehkans (peasants): This part of the program focuses on support for Central Asian peasants –Dehkans – and their innovations and practices that sustain the agrobiodiversity of fruits, nuts, root crops, cereals and their wild relatives; medicinal and wild food plants and herbs and the associated agro-ecosystems, cultural land management practices, and livelihoods necessary to maintain this diversity. Over the last decade we have supported dehkans and communities that have rescued hundreds of varieties of fruit and nut trees from the verge of extinction. Now we are working to enable farmers to reestablish these varieties across their fields and landscapes for a host of economic, nutritional, cultural and spiritual benefits.

    This theme is realized on the following priority landscapes which together host the most important montane agrobiodiversity and associated biocultural diversity of Central AsiaL

    • High Altitude Agricultural Valleys of the Panj and Vakhsh Rivers in Eastern Tajikistan (GBAO, the Rasht valley and Kulyab zone) which are linguistically and biologically some of the most diverse regions of Central Asia whose many distinct Indo-European tribes are renowned for rich cultural and historical traditions in agriculture, sacred sites, sages and saints, music and dance. Rasht, in the relatively broad valley of the Vaksh River, is included as the most productive montane agricultural area in the region. Khovaling and Muminobod of the Kulyab/Khatlon region are ecologically and culturally rich and distinct, located among vast Aeolian deposits above the cotton-farming plains of the south and west.
    • Fruit and Nut Forests of the Southern Tien Shan (Jalalabad and Batken in Kyrgyzstan) which are the largest remaining wild fruit and nut forests in the world.

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    • Grant-seeking organizations need to be US 501(c)(3) or a similar not-for-profit organization, government unit, university or museum either in the USA or in another country
    • Grants within the regional programs are generally directed to organizations based within those regions or, where appropriate, to international organizations working in support of the efforts of people and institutions on the ground.

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