Mountains, yurts and the global classroom


  • 2011•09•01     Bonn

    Learning in the mountain classroom

    Mountain classroom: Prof. Orunbek Kolanov, Osh State University, explains methodologies for rapid field assessment and soil assessment. Photo: UNU-EHS

    Sleeping in yurts and living amongst a remote nomadic community in a rural Kyrgyzstan, participants in a recent United Nations University (UNU) summer school had the opportunity to study first-hand the impacts of complex change on mountain ecosystems, whilst gaining unique insights into Kyrgyz traditions and culture.

    Organized by the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), based in Bonn, Germany, and Osh State University in Kyrgzystan, the summer school aimed to equip participants with an understanding of the concepts, methodologies and analytical tools needed to manage change in complex socio-economic systems. During the ten-day programme (1 to 10 August 2011), 35 students from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Germany and the UK  analysed the challenges to local livelihoods and ecosystems in Kara Kulja, located at the cross-section of the Alai and Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.

    Ecosystems and human well-being are integrated and interconnected. The students’ experiences living amongst a remote mountain community highlighted the importance of engaging local stakeholders in developing solutions to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. Through practical fieldwork, students deepened their knowledge of  community-based land-use planning and ways to incorporate both scientific data and local knowledge.

    Practical fieldwork on water assessment
    Summer school participants undertake practical fieldwork on water assessment. Photo: UNU-EHS

    The summer school was organized under the framework of the Project on Sustainable Land Management in the High Pamir and Pamir-Alai Mountains in Central Asia (PALM), an initiative of the Governments of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and executed in partnership with UNU-EHS. The summer school drew on experiences of PALM in promoting sustainable land management (SLM) and enabled participants to test, on a pilot level, SLM tools developed previously under PALM that have since been incorporated in the curriculum of Osh State University. A number of videos produced by the UNU Media Centre as part of PALM also proved to be valuable teaching tools.

    Highlights of the summer school included presentations by the Kyrgyz Deputy Minister of Agriculture (Mr. O. Kenjebaev) and the director of the Pasture Department under the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. A. Egemberdiev), who outlined the Government’s agricultural policy and progress in implementing new law on pastures. Lectures from UNU-EHS (Profs. Renaud and Pachova) and UNU-ISP (Prof. Liang) were supplemented with instruction by professors from Osh State University and other local experts and partners to the PALM project to deliver the summer school programme.