By the late 1990s, entrepreneur James Tufenkian had been using his business ventures to promote social justice for over a decade — first in Nepal, then in his ancestral homeland of Armenia. However, some of the most pressing social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges facing Armenia couldn’t be solved by market forces alone. Instead, overcoming them would also require innovation and bold action from the non-profit sector.
The Tufenkian Foundation was founded to meet that need, seeking to model new approaches to long-standing problems, and to pioneer projects that overcome new or long-ignored challenges. The common thread between our various projects is that they all stand to offer benefits that can ripple through multiple layers of Armenia’s society
In 2003, our mission was expanded to include the embattled borderlands of Nagorno-Karabagh, where resettlers attempt to establish lives and infrastructure in harsh conditions with little to no international aid.
This challenge is directly tied to other major problems facing Armenia—poverty, corruption, disempowerment, short-term mentalities, and a lack of affordable energy alternatives. Since 2002, we have pursued a combination of hands-on reforestation, community initiatives and public advocacy campaigns to help Armenians secure a better environment and better environmental policies.
Our work in Armenia began in 1998. We work hand-in-hand with local Armenians — both groups and individuals — delivering projects that can grow, mature and eventually spin off to larger benefactors or else become self-sustaining. We have completed more than 60 projects in Armenia to combat poverty, promote education, protect the natural environment and renew national, civic, cultural and religious values. While our focus is not political, many of our challenges are directly tied to other major problems facing Armenia, including the rule of law, corruption, disempowerment, short-term mentalities, as well as energy security and affordability.
In 2003, we turned our attention to Nagorno-Karabagh, where a hard-fought war had killed thousands and displaced many more. The region’s borderlands, which serve as Karabagh’s primary link to Armenia, were left especially vulnerable. So, we began to promote resettlement, infrastructure, health care and economic development work to repopulate these areas, giving local communities a stake in building a future on these lands.
According to trends, Armenia is undergoing massive desertification. At a time when less than 10% of Armenia’s historic tree cover remains, our Environmental Program has worked to renew rich forests in all five regions of the country, while engaging the public in the life of their natural environment.