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Progress Report from Youth EcoCenter of Dushanbe

Thanks to donor Shannon Simrell, whose 1998 contribution was increased by Virtual Foundation matching funds to provide Yuri Skochilov with a month's worth of e-mail access.

This report was submitted by Yuri Skochilov on June 7, 2001. It summarizes the work of his organization over the past four years.


Since 1995, the Youth Ecocenter of Dushanbe has been an email base-station for environmental NGOs and citizen activists of Tajikistan. This was the first email station in Tajikistan that provided free access to email and data bases for environmental and funding organizations.

In 1998 the Ecocenter's range of activities significantly expanded:

In order to encourage the development of the independent environmental movement, to create a network of environmental organizations in Tajikistan, and incorporate local NGOs into regional and international information networks, the EcoCenter began holding trainings on computer and Internet use, as well as NGO development. Our primary instrument for improving information exchange among NGOs as well as public access to environmental information was our bulletin "Tabiat" (both in print and electronic versions). Over 70 NGOs, government agencies, schools and universities in Tajikistan received the printed version. To this day, Tabiat remains an important resource -- the only regularly published socio-ecological publication in the entire country. The e-mail version was distributed to over 65 organizations in Tajikistan and the Commonwealth of Independent States [Central Asia, Russia, the Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova].

In 1998, the amount of information/resource work at the EcoCenter significantly increased. We established a Resource Center to provide technical and information support services to over 50 organizations and initiative groups in Tajikistan. Tthanks to Sacred Earth Network and the Open Society Insititute, we acquired urgently needed equipment and training materials. Each week over 100 NGO representatives, teachers, scientists and students visited our center. In 1998 we sent and received 5 - 6.6 megabytes of email messages per month, which cost $150 - $200 per month at the single available service provider here (the rate for sending messages was 3 US cents for 1 kilobite of text!). We paid for most of our email expenses with the help of various donor organizations: Christian Aid (UK), Sacred Earth Network, and the National Endowment for Democracy. The Virtual Foundation ($125) grant enabled us to cover our expenses (debts to the service provider) for almost a month of e-mail use.

This work led to significant growth in the potential of local NGOs, by helping them find the resources and professional contacts they were able to seek beyond the borders of Tajikistan. Thanks to this, in 1998 alone:

In 1999, with the support of various international organizations a number of new resource centers opened in Dushanbe that also provided support to the development of the non-profit sector in Tajikistan: Counterpart Consortium Resource Center, Women's and Legal Resource Center (through the Open Society), and the CADA Public Email Access Centers. These centers have a lot of funding and many more technical capabilities than the centers established by local NGOs. A large number of our email users at the EcoCenter began to also use the services offered by these larger international organizations.

Consequently the number of people and organizations using email at our center decreased, leaving mainly environmental groups, and students and teachers. Most of these larger centers created by international organizations) do not work with the environmentalists but refer them to us, although our resources are very limited. Since 1999, our expenses for email trainings are almost $2500 per year, and telephone and fax reach up to $1000 per year, which represents a large part of our budget.

We are currently seeking sponsors to cover the communications costs for our Resource Center; we do owe payments to our service provider. Fundraising for environmental telecommunications in Tajikistan has been difficult, especially since we need to compete with these larger resource centers established by international organizations, and unfortunately these monopolies prevent us from planning to expand our support for local environmental groups and their communications.

Our resource center is now concentrating more on training. This year we have already held more than 20 seminars and trainings on organizational development, as well as organizing for youth groups. We provided technical support to NGOs that have computers and modems (installing programs, training, consultation on decodifying messages and archives, printing out messages and photocopying materials). We also continue to issue printed and electronic versions of "Tabiat." Among the leading NGOs using our center are: The Environmental Protection Druzhina, Scientific Pedagogical Institute, Pamir Ecological Group, Odamiyat Association, Social-Ecological Council, "Kumai" and "Shokhin" groups, the Tajikistan National Park, and others. Our bulletin, "Tabiat", continues to be one of the few stable sources of environmental information of Tajikistan. Over 50 NGOs in Tajikistan continue to receive our printed materials and our electronic bulletin has 78 subscribers from Tajikistan, the countries of the CIS and the USA.

Our monthly e-mail costs (now approximately $150) continue to be a significant part of our budget, and difficult to cover. Any additional support from donors through the Virtual Foundation would be much appreciated.

Yuri Skochilov, Director of the Youth EcoCenter, and Sergei Vorsin, Coordinator