The project aims to discuss and engage children of Talas city in Indigenous traditional ways of environmental protection that are based on living in harmony with nature and emphasizing the snow leopard as the highest animal in the food chain and the unifier of the ecosystem. The hope for the project is that through the image of the snow leopard, there will be a revival of traditional knowledge about ecology in the younger generation.
- Elders and keepers of Indigenous knowledge will share their heritage and knowledge via videos, online, and when possible in person with children of Talas city.
- The testimonies and videos will be published on the blog along with legends of snow leopards. Periodically, there will be a contest posted on the blog about totem animals (wolf, snow leopard, reindeer); best collage, or best short story, for example.
- Through partners, we will share different media materials about snow leopards with children and disseminate these materials on discs and online.
Initially, we were going to work in community schools and with community leaders, where face-to-face interaction is very much appreciated. However, the last semester of classes (country-wide) was held remotely, and there is still an on-going ban on mass gatherings as the pandemic is peaking, which will change some things for the community and the strategy for implementing this project. We will have to carry on some of the meetings remotely and online, and cancel others. Part of our budget for travel and meetings will go toward creating videos and blogs about totem animals, including snow leopards.
According to the national statistics service, 20% of the population of Kyrgyzstan lives below the poverty line, which forces about one million Kyrgyz citizens to search for a better livelihood abroad. Others are busy earning a living and are often ignorant of climate change or other environmental issues such as the disappearance of snow leopards (typical inhabitants of this region).
The success of this project will allow the Kyrgyz children to reconnect with the awareness of the land and culture, and to come up with creative solutions for boosting the economy without harming the land. It is also an alternative to the rising fundamentalist Muslim tradition, which is gaining a stronger foothold in Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, connecting with traditional cultural ways has become even more critical in order for them not to be lost; and it has become increasingly dangerous for Elders to teach the traditions. This project will encourage children to learn about Indigenous ways and for Elders to keep the tradition alive.
Around 300-500 children from age 5-17—kindergarten, elementary school, and high school students—will learn about environment protection in schools and the importance of their sacred totem, the Snow Leopard. They live and study in Talas city. Their lives are closely entwined with nature and the local community, as familial and tribal ties are strong in the region. The project will extend to community leaders, teachers in schools, kindergartens, and parents of the children. Also, we believe the project will have an impact on future generations if they are taught from an early age.
These children will be unlike their parents, (who grew up after the collapse of the Soviet Union) better connected to the ecosystem and their lives within it. They will know and recognize the snow leopard as their totem animal and influence their community to have respect for nature. Perhaps some of them will grow up to be eco-activists and raise awareness about environmental issues and climate change. Furthermore, they also will be equipped with Indigenous knowledge on building a relationship with nature.