The geographical remoteness of certain societies do not mean that they are not impacted by major contemporary challenges, such as climate change, the degradation of natural resources, or declining agricultural production. For example, numerous surveys have been carried out within the framework of projects in Kyrgyzstan among local people in order to determine the evolution of supply and demand of fodder for livestock farmers in the face of climate change and their economic difficulties, but also the effects of migration of workers abroad on the local economy and life.
The Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI) of the University of Central Asia was created to study the impact of these challenges. By bringing together a team of researchers from complementary sciences, it can, for example, combine socio-economic analysis, hydrology, and cartography. The objective is to bring together different areas of expertise in order to analyse, understand, and contribute to the development of mountain societies in the isolated valleys of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan), where little or no research is being conducted.
These surveys have led policy makers to calibrate their agricultural and migration policies, and local communities to increase livestock productivity in a sustainable manner. Other surveys were conducted to bring local people to the table to discuss conflicts of interest and the sharing of natural resources along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. These working groups provide a real transfer of knowledge in the interest of the local communities. And MSRI also uses statistical analysis using advanced technologies such as remote sensing to identify and quantify problems of natural resources.
For example, vegetation, runoff and climate maps (available to the general public) have been produced in the Isfara basin to inform farmers about the irrigation conditions required for their plots. In the Khatlon region of Tajikistan, MSRI conducts long-term research to introduce appropriate and low-cost technologies to local people for the production of sweet potato, which is profitable on the market and nutritious for self-consumption.
MSRI also coordinates the installation of climate stations in the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan to build a dataset essential for understanding climate change. The data enables a systematic analysis of the vulnerabilities of local communities to climate change and thus guide research to improve their resilience. These detailed maps are produced and disseminated to the general public in areas at risk in terms of floods, landslides, and erosion to prevent events such as the Mumunabad flood in 2012 in Tajikistan, which destroyed infrastructure, croplands, and lives. Local populations welcome the benefits derived from scientific research conducted by UCA through its various institutes.
By harnessing the strengths of a multidisciplinary institute, UCA’s Mountain Societies Research Institute can study the impact of challenges, like climate change, despite geographical remoteness.