The UCA Research Programme: Partnerships & People

Date: 29 September 2010
Other languages: Русский язык |

UCA Hosts Regional Hub of Mountain Partnership/Mountain Forum

UCA signed a Letter of Agreement with the Mountain Partnership and Mountain Forum (MP/MF) to serve as the host of their regional hub for Central Asia.  The MP/MF are global initiatives that serve mountain people, their governments and institutions by providing them with platforms for networking to exchange of knowledge and experience. Mountain Forum provides services to individuals, while Mountain Partnership serves institutions and governments, and is designed to forge joint initiatives between members, and link them to funding sources.  Under the agreement, signed 1 August 2010,   MP/MF will undertake activities to create platforms for information exchange for isolated mountain communities, including support for the Kyrgyz language Ayil Ajary newspaper; a regional knowledge sharing event on climate change adaptation; and work with the UCA / National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South initiative to produce manuals for herders in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The MP/MF will also contribute to implementing UCA’s Central Asian Mountain Monitoring Network (CAMMON) initiative. MP/MF is the second international initiative to host its Central Asian operations at UCA, joining the NCCR North-South, and contributing to UCA’s goal of becoming a regional hub for research and the exchange of information in and about Central Asia.

For more information see: and

UCA Featured in Mountain Research and Development Journal

As an institutional member of the International Mountain Society (IMS), UCA was featured in the August 2010 issue of IMS’ quarterly journal Mountain Research and Development.   Based in Berne, Switzerland, the IMS promotes knowledge about mountain research and mountain development throughout the world. The IMS promotes sustainable mountain development through improved communication among institutions and individuals, with a particular focus on mountain ecoregions in the developing world. The article can be found at:

New Staff & Fellows at the UCA Research Programme

Elbegzaya (Zaya) Batjargal, the Regional Programme Officer covering Mountain Partnership/Mountain Forum (MP/MF) activities for the region, is now based at UCA’s Central Administrative Office in Kyrgyzstan, following UCA’s recent agreement with MP/MF. 

Zaya has been with Mountain Partnership since 2008, when it opened its Asia Pacific Hub at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal.   She received her MA in International Environmental Policy from the Graduate School of International Policy Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, California.  As a policy analyst and development practitioner specializing in environmental conservation, Zaya’s previous work experience includes policy analyst/environmental specialist positions with the Energy and Environment teams of UNDP country offices in Mongolia and the Maldives, and heading the Fundraising, Marketing and Communication Unit of the World Wildlife Fund Programme Office in Mongolia.  Zaya can be contacted at:

Chad Dear joined UCA as a Senior Research Fellow in September 2010, and is involved in the strategic development of the UCA’s proposed Mountain Societies Research Centre.  His professional focus is on rural livelihoods, conservation, protected area management, and nature-based tourism.   Chad earned his BA in interdisciplinary studies (Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government) from American University in Washington, DC.  He developed and directed a high school environmental education programme in Washington State for two years before returning for his MSc in Geography from Western Washington UniversityChad’s thesis focused on understanding conflicts between subsistence and wilderness users of Alaskan national parks.  His work was published in the International Journal of Society and Natural Resources, as well as in numerous practitioner-oriented forums.  Chad was a Fulbright Fellow in Swaziland where his research contributed to the development of a rural community participation strategy for a Global Environment Facility-funded landscape-scale biodiversity conservation and tourism development corridor project. He also walked across Swaziland as part of the project’s awareness-raising campaign. Chad went to study for his PhD at the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation where he was part of a long-term collaborative research program between University of Montana and University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  His dissertation research investigated the political causes and livelihood consequences of human displacement from protected areas in Mozambique, an article from which is featured in the journal Conservation and Society.  After earning his PhD, Chad headed natural resource management, disaster risk reduction, agro-enterprise, and women’s empowerment programmes for Catholic Relief Services in Afghanistan and East Timor.  Recently, working with the Aga Khan Foundation, he authored a facilitators’ guide for community rangeland management trainings in Afghanistan and a popular book on the development of nature-based tourism in Afghanistan's Central Highlands.  Chad can be contacted at:

Karim-Aly Kassam joined UCA as a Senior Research Fellow in 2010.  Karim-Aly is an International Associate Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the Department of Natural Resources and the American Indian Program at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, where he also serves as Director of Graduate Studies for the American Indian Program.  He earned his BA in Economics from University of Calgary, his MSc in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries from the London School of Economics, his MPhil in Islamic Studies from the University of Cambridge, and his PhD in Natural Resource Policy and Management, with concentrations in Socio-Anthropology and Community Sociology, from Cornell University. Karim-Aly’s research projects involve an action research approach in which the community directly participates in the design, implementation, and application of results.  Since 2006, he has worked closely with local scholars and scientists from Central Asia, researching the complex connectivity of human and environmental relations, and indigenous approaches to food security, sustainable livelihoods, climate change and pluralism in the Pamirs.  In partnership with UCA (with funding from the Christensen Fund and the National Science Foundation and on-the-ground support from Focus Humanitarian Assistance Afghanistan and the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, Karim-Aly and his team, including Pamiri scholars Munira Karamkhudoeva and Umed Bulbulshoev, have worked to ensure that local knowledge is not lost with the aging of the scientific community of the Pamir region.  To this end, they are developing an internet-based curriculum on research topics for 10 universities globally which will link local students to those at various universities around the world, including Cornell, Beijing University and UCA.  On 20 July, culminating five years of collaborative research with UCA, Karim-Aly presented a lecture on “How can a dynamic concept of pluralism inform adaptation and survival under conditions of dramatic socio-cultural and environmental change?”  in Khorog, Tajikistan.   Karim-Aly was the first to give the inaugural Learning Event Seminar at UCA’s Khorog campus on September 1, 2006.  Over the course of his research in the Pamirs, he has delivered five seminars on diverse but related topics such as his preliminary findings related to climate change, opium addiction and sacred sites; on being relevant -possibilities for a University in the Pamirs; the role of community service learning – the link between freedom and responsibility; and diversity – where nature and culture matter. Karim-Aly has published widely, and his most recent publications, based on his work in Central Asia are entitled ‘Viewing Change Through the Prism of Indigenous Human Ecology: Findings from the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs’ in the journal Human Ecology (2009) and “Pluralism, Resilience, and the Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan” in Ecology and Society (2010). Karim-Aly can be contacted at:

Ainura Nazarkulova joined UCA as a Research Fellow in 2010.  At UCA, she will be involved in collaborative research, provide support on the development of spatial databases for ongoing projects and develop capacity and training materials on GIS tools.   Ainura earned her Diploma in Applied Mathematics and her Graduate Diploma in Economics from Kyrgyz National University; her Post-Graduate Diploma in Remote Sensing and GIS from the UN affiliated Center for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific in Dehradun, India; and her PhD in Geoinformatics from the University of Salzburg, Austria.  Her expertise includes Geographic Information Science and Systems (GIS), Spatial Data Infrastructures, Computer Cartography and Remote Sensing and Image Processing.   Ainura has extensive experience designing education and training, as well as applied projects, in GIS.  She currently serves as the Director of the Kyrgyz GIS Association, Deputy Director at the Austrian Central Asian Centre for GIScience, and as a Visiting Researcher with the GIScience Institute of the Austrian Academy of Science.   She was a GIS Consultant for the Rural Development Fund and the Tien Shan Ecosystem Development Project.  Previously, Ainura served as the Head of the GIS group at the town-planning department of the Bishkek Central Architecture Board, and as a Consultant/GIS Administrator to the GEF/World Bank Transboundary project on biodiversity conservation of West Tien-Shan. Ainura can be contacted at:

Zarina Osorova served as UCA’s 2010 Summer Intern. Zarina is from Kyrgyzstan, and is a second year Masters student in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute in International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.  Zarina received her BA in Anthropology from the American University of Central Asia in 2006.  In 2007, she was awarded a full scholarship from the Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students to pursue a Masters degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Bern. In 2009, she was awarded another full scholarship for a second Masters degree in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute in International and Development Studies.  Previously, Zarina worked as a research assistant for the National Centre of Competence in Research North-South NCCR on projects on “Internal and International Labour Migration in Kyrgyzstan” and “Legal and Institutional Aspects of Pasture Management in Kyrgyzstan”. During her internship at UCA Zarina worked with UCA Research Director to assemble background information and provide recommendations on salient issues in Naryn Oblast for the purposes of developing a comprehensive socio-economic and demographic survey. She also supported UCA Research Fellow, Dr. Elmira Kochumkulova, on her projects related to Kyrgyz oral tradition including one on compiling Kyrgyz and Kazakh proverbs.

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