Central Asian and Afghan Researchers Complete Applied Research Training through Innovative Fellowship Programme

Date: 29 June 2016
Other languages: Русский язык |

Kyrgyz Fellow Aida Bekturova shares her research on gender and neo-nationalism in Kyrgyzstan’s labour out-migration with Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, Director of MSRI.
The University of Central Asia’s Mountain Societies Research Institute (UCA MSRI) convened the final Central Asia and Afghanistan Research Fellowship (CAARF) workshop for ten Central Asian and Afghan scholars to document their diverse research into policy recommendations.

Held from 10 to 13 May 2016, this was the capstone of the three-year programme, dedicated to improving the capacity of regional researchers. CAARF is implemented as part of the Research and Public Policy Initiative (RPPI) supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa and Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

The Fellows of this inaugural programme researched climate change and natural resource governance; mountain livelihoods, remittances, and labour migration; disaster risk reduction; and other region-crucial fields concerning the economic, social and environmental impact of development on mountain societies.

CAARF builds trans-disciplinary research networks by pairing Fellows with international mentors and peers from different backgrounds. Fellows are a select group of promising researchers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. A direct goal of CAARF is to produce high quality research relevant to challenges facing the region.

Experts challenged participants to draw key policy messages from their research findings, to communicate scientific facts effectively, and to employ gender-sensitive thinking. Technical sessions introduced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools and social network analysis to enable researchers to extend the impact of their work.

“The use of GIS tools helps demonstrate results into new seismological research mathematical models and makes them accessible to a wider audience,” said CAARF Fellow Shokarim Shoziyoev, whose research explored the regularities of earthquake aftershock patterns in Tajikistan through data analysis and lab-based simulations. 

Researcher Gulmira Saryeva, whose fieldwork focused on conservation of traditional varieties of fruit trees in Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk-Kul foothills, will use GIS mapping to track the spread of pear trees infected with a bacteria known as fireblight. These efforts will guide quarantine measures to contain the loss of pear orchards.
 
With the majority of Fellows’ analysis completed, this workshop focussed on translating their academic research into policy briefs for distribution to key stakeholders in government, academia, civil society, and the private sector. The style and clarity of their presentation was evaluated for its appeal to a diverse group of decision makers. Trainers provided one-on-one feedback, delivered lectures, and conducted role play and group exercises, including facilitating participants to craft a 45-second pitch of their research.

Participants are uniquely positioned as experts in the local context to apply their research to environmental issues directly impacting their home countries. Researcher Wasim Iqbal examined drought forecasting in Afghanistan’s Amu Darya River Basin to design appropriate management strategies for agricultural water. He will deliver his findings and policy recommendations to the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, where he works as an advisor to the Minister. Iqbal partnered with mentor Dr Anthony Kiem, an expert in water resource management, hydrological modelling, and climate variability from the University of Newcastle, Australia.

"CAARF fellows are already playing important roles in the Central Asian region, through their positions as government advisors, researchers, and educators. Understanding how their research can be translated into robust policy is vital to supporting development in mountain societies," explained Katherine Hall, who provided training in developing policy briefs.

CAARF mentors include university faculty from the United States, Canada, Germany and Russia. Reflecting on the CAARF experience, the Fellows expressed gratitude for their supportive research community and optimism for continued international cooperation.

“My CAARF mentor was invaluable in helping me interpret implications of my radar imagery findings,” said PhD candidate Kanayim Teshebaeva, whose work focussed on the Pamir-Alai range in Kyrgyzstan. “He guided me to evaluate areas at risk of landslides in Kyrgyzstan, with an accuracy of a few millimetres. I am eager to use my training to collaborate with government ministries to create a radar-guided regional map of geological processes, the first of its kind in Central Asia.”

The workshop was the third installment of CAARF training sessions for local researchers. Previous workshops on Scientific Writing and Publishing in Chong Kemin, Kyrgyzstan and Research for Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan were provided with IDRC support. To mark conclusion of this training, the 10 Fellows received certificates of achievement.