Unique Challenges & Opportunities

Mountain societies in Central Asia face unique challenges, including geography-specific liabilities such as remoteness and related underdeveloped service infrastructures.

Extreme topographical and seasonal variations limit natural resource dependent livelihood options and make these environments more vulnerable to the effects of climatic changes and natural hazards. Elevation, extreme weather and the challenges of providing health services in rugged isolated areas lead to increased health risks. Dynamic political and economic conditions, such as transitioning economies, conflict and ethnic tensions, and complex cross-border relations compound these conditions.

Conversely, the Tien Shan, Pamir, and Hindu Kush ranges are home to great biological diversity that maintains ecosystem integrity and a sustainable flow of ecosystem services. These mountains are the water towers of a region that is facing increasing water scarcity. Central Asian mountains also harbor tremendous potential for energy generation, mineral extraction, and development of the livestock sector. Additionally, their communities are well-positioned to benefit from growing global demand for nature-based tourism, remote landscapes and unique cultures.

There is a dearth of rigorously investigated and adequately documented scientific understanding on mountain societies. Data are rarely disaggregated between mountain and non-mountain areas, and scientific investigation has been limited by remoteness and other physical challenges. Research is often conducted with little input from or benefit to the communities and environments under study. There is a need for rigorous scholarship to fill known gaps and explore unknown blind spots in research on Central Asian mountain societies, and to practically apply findings to these unique people and places.