BIARI Alumni Initiative

Exploring the upper reaches of the basin, above Katran, Kyrgyzstan

Cooperation and Adaptation in Transboundary Basin in Central Asia

BIARI Participant(s):
Dominic Stucker
Sustainability Leaders Network
Country: United States
Participant in BIARI 2010: Climate Change and its Impacts: Resilience and Adaptation to Changes in Precipitation
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As a young professional wanting to combine research, practice, and policy, the Brown International Advanced Research Institute (BIARI) has provided me an invaluable bridge to return to academia.  I had the privilege of participating in BIARI’s Climate Impacts and Water Institute in 2010, where my emerging interests at this critical intersection were refined into a research proposal.

With support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Amu Darya Basin Network, and BIARI, I conducted fieldwork in Central Asia in 2011 as a Research Intern with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).  I focused on a small transboundary tributary of the Syr Darya, interviewing water user association managers and members, as well as district and provincial experts, in upstream Kyrgyzstan and downstream Tajikistan.  I wanted to better understand if and how people in the transboundary, agrarian basin were cooperating on sharing increasingly variable water resources and if that cooperation was leading to climate change adaptation.

With IWMI colleagues Jusipbek Kazbekov, Murat Yakubov, and Kai Wegerich, I co-authored an article entitled Climate Change in a Small Transboundary Tributary of the Syr Darya Calls for Effective Cooperation and Adaptation, which was published as a featured article in the Mountain Research and Development Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3The entire volume was also translated into Russian.

Organizers of the Adaptation Futures Conference, held in Arizona, USA in May 2012, offered me the opportunity to give a presentation on our research. As an early career researcher in the fields of water and climate change, attending the event was a valuable learning and networking opportunity. 

In an otherwise ample and rich program, I noticed that mine was the only presentation on Central Asia and therefore took every opportunity to talk with conference participants about pressing issues in the region. Over 700 practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and business representatives from more than 60 countries attended, but I met none from Central Asia, underscoring the importance in my mind of continued support of international and local researchers focused on the region.

During the conference, I sought out presentations focused on transboundary water management, mountains, Asia, systems thinking and change, and research and policy links.  I attended a range of inspiring – and troubling – talks from leaders in the field such as:

  • Maria Carmen Lemos, University of Michigan, USA (who was one of our lecturers during BIARI 2010)
  • Diana Liverman, University of Arizona, USA
  • Kathy Jacobs, US Office of Science and Technology Policy, USA
  • Joseph Alcamo, United Nations Environment Program, Kenya
  • Saleemul Huq, International Center for Climate Change and Development, Bangladesh
  • Steve Jennings, Oxfam International, United Kingdom
  • Mark Howden, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia 

I was also impressed by the numerous other young researchers and professionals at the event, including:

  • Laura Conavary, a marine biologist from Colombia studying for her Masters in Environmental Change and Management at Oxford University, United Kingdom
  • Nina Holmelin, with the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CISERO) doing her PhD research at Bergen University on adapting to uncertainty through farming flexibility in the Himalaya
  • Esther Conrad, pursuing a PhD at the University of California at Berkeley and working with the Climate Change Program of the California Department of Water Resources on collaborative and adaptive approaches to water governance

I am deeply grateful to the donor organizations that made my participation in the conference possible, including the Udall Center for Public Policy at University of Arizona and the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security at the University of Vermont.

The conference also afforded me the opportunity to meet with several contributors to a BIARI-funded book I am co-editing with Elena Lopez-Gunn on adaptation to climate change through water resources management for Routledge/Earthscan (forthcoming 2013). BIARI alumni from our cohort are writing the majority of the volume’s 18 case studies, which span the globe. We will be sure to announce the publication of the book through this vibrant BIARI network!