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Training on Eco-Social Resilience

Date: July 9-13, 2008
Place: Village Kichi-Jargylchak, Issyk-Kol oblast, Kyrgyzstan
Language: Kyrgyz

Training staff from Aigine CRC:

  • Zemfira Inogamova,
  • Baktygul Tulebaeva,
  • Gulnara Aitpaeva,
  • Aida Egemberdieva,

Goal:

  • to prepare research group members of Aigine from Talas and Issyk-Kol to conduct research by using anthropological research methods on “shocks & risks” in the villages of Talas and Issyk-Kol provinces.
  • to show the link between the mission and activities of Aigine with the concept of Eco-Social Resilience as the main issue of the seminar in and the research “risks & shocks” as an aspect of resilience concept.

Tasks of the seminar-training:
ü  To unite the working groups in Talas and Issik-Kol oblasts and conduct collaborative field research on traditional knowledge for overcoming crises. This will help the students from both Universities share their experiences.
ü  To teach the main methods of research and define new fields of research.
ü  To clarify the goals of the Talas group and work out a plan of field research for the next two months.

Expected results:
This seminar-training will deepen the knowledge of the students on research methods and promote learning skills of students by giving them the opportunity to see and learn from each other.

List of Participants:

  • Venera Abdieva, Talas working group
  • Saltanat Altymysheva, Talas working group
  • Begaiym Dooronbekova, Talas working group
  • Nazira Jusupova, Talas working group
  • Nurjamal Kachkynbaeva, Talas working group
  • Alina Osmonalieva, Talas working group
  • Nazira Satisheva, Talas working group
  • Gulmira Ulanar kyzy, Issyk-Kol working group

Overview
The seminar on Eco-Social Resilience was held at a house of a young Manaschi  (person who recite subjects from Manas epic) located in Kichi-Jargylchak village, Issyk-Kol province, Kyrgyzstan, July 9-13, Southern Shore of the Lake, 2008. Aigine RC members conducted the seminar on Eco-Social Resilience for participants from Talas province who are the members of Aigine RC in Kyrgyzstan and they were joined by one research group member of Aigine RC in Karakol town.

The event was organized by Aigine RC and sponsored by The Christensen Fund (TCF).  By any measures, the Eco-Social Resilience seminar was new as a notion and special experience for research group members from Talas and Karakol towns. Research group members from Talas for the first time conducted research on “shocks and risks” in Issyk-Kol province (outside of Talas province) and their research experience in comparison with their research practices in Talas town was a bit challenging.

Implementation
Young Manaschi  from Kichi-Jargylchak hosted the seminar at his house and he also actively takes part in many of Aigine activities. Before the arrival of the Aigine group to Kichi-Jargylchak village, we worked on the program of the seminar and included the eldest family member of a family who was a grand father of Manaschi into the program as one of the key informants. Unfortunately before our trip we were informed by young Manaschi that his grand father passed away right before our planned trip to his village. It was very shocking for us to find out about such news when we included his grand-father into the program of the seminar just yesterday and today we have to take him out of the program. We talked to his grand son who is young Manaschi and told that we could come later in August for the seminar but we were convinced to come. His grand son said that his grand father was eagerly waiting for our group and that he even prepared nice clothes to wear when research group would come. Thus, our group went to Kich-Jargylchak and it was close to 40 days. Kyrgyz people usually conduct 40 days of mourning after the passing of the deceased one. Despite that we were warmly hosted by family members who were in grief but they were also strong. According to Kyrgyz religious believe a spirit of a deceased one remains on the earth with his/her alive relatives for 40 days and the spirit goes up to other dimension after 40 days.

In the first chapter we talked a lot about the concept of resilience but we did not talked about the concept itself yet. Resilience is a relatively new theoretical concept not only in Bishkek but in Kyrgyzstan in general. Hence, there are no local research results and publications that might illustrate not only local case-studies but also case-studies from Central Asia. “Resilience is… the ability to absorb disturbances, to be changed and then to re-organize and still have the same identity (retain the same basic structure and ways of functioning). It includes the ability to learn from the disturbance. A resilient system is forgiving of external shocks. As resilience declines the magnitude of a shock from which it cannot recover gets smaller and smaller. Resilience shifts attention from purely growth and efficiency to needed recovery and flexibility. Growth and efficiency alone can often lead ecological systems, businesses and societies into fragile rigidities, exposing them to turbulent transformation. Learning, recovery and flexibility open eyes to novelty and new worlds of opportunity.” (Cited from Resilience Alliance- http://www.resalliance.org/564.php).

The program of the seminar was intensive but also interactive. Organizers included games according to the concepts of the seminar and participants had opportunity to swim in the Issyk-Kol lake. Mainly the program of the seminar consisted from three parts as theoretical, practical parts and evaluation part.

1) During theoretical part of the seminar participants learned about the notion of resilience as a new concept and how do Aigine members connect the notion with its mission and other activities. Also facilitators of the seminar shared with many examples not only from Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia but also case studies from the world’ environmental experiences. As a main source was used the book on Resilience Thinking, Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World by Brian Walker and David Salt, 2006 and Bibliography section of the Resilience Alliance web-site- http://www.resalliance.org/2.php;

2) During practical part we asked the participants to apply the theories to everyday life situations and give examples to each other if they can derive them from everyday life situations. The participants together with the seminar’s facilitators took interviews from inhabitants in Kichi-Jargylchak village. One of interesting observations were done on the apricots use for and meanings for life one of the local families. Important part of this practical work was discussing preliminary findings with each other at the evenings according to the learned theory of resilience.

3) Third part of the seminar was evaluation part. The main goal of the third part was find out about weak and strong sides of conducted seminar on Eco-Social Resilience from the perspective of the research group members from Talas and Karakol towns. Participants of the seminar were distributed hand out and facilitators asked them to separate one sheet of paper into two sections as λ (alfa) and β (betta). Participants were asked to write down about the weak part of the seminar in β section and strong parts of the seminar in λ part.

The main questions that were asked during the evaluation process are the following:

  • What changes could be made if we will conduct the same seminar next time?
  • What is useful for participants? If, so then how? (providing reasons and examples).
  • Were the facilitators able to reach the main goal that they shared you with at the beginning of the seminar?
  • What was the experiences of the participants in terms of applying the theories in everyday life situation?
  • What suggestions do they have for facilitators to take into consideration in future?
  • The form of the evaluation was anonymous in order to get honest feed-backs for our consideration.

Challenges
First of all it was difficult to rely on limited source of knowledge on resilience as a ‘big’ concept itself. At Aigine RC we had a book that I mentioned about before, including the article from the web-site of Resilience Alliance. Perhaps it would be easier if we would take part in certain seminars before our seminar on resilience. But it was also a positive challenge that motivated us to learn and explore about resilience based on our own search.

Moreover we faced challenges during practical part of the seminar because it was an “apricot season” for all villages. Since most of the villagers were busy with gathering and selling the apricots most of our informants were busy and some asked us to come later in the evening when they will have time. It also influenced to our seminar program but not drastically. Our participants of the seminar tries to be moderately flexible while taking interviews from local people in Kichi-Jargylchak.

Except the issue of time our group also experienced difficulties due to unethical behavior of the other research group members that was also hosted by the same host family. According to the words of our informants, the members of the previous research group were coordinated by a German researcher from Tosor village (not far from Kichi-Jargylchak village) and they were conducting research related to the questions of history. We were told that the members of the previous research group helped to their informants with domestic work. For instance one of the informants said: “Will you also help me? The other girls who came before helped me to clean the house, they swept out and washed the floors for me?” and another informant said: “Will you also help us to carry the bags with apricot to the yard? Previous group helped us to do so?” Moreover, according to the words of one of our research group members from Talas, she was asked to give a scarf for the answers of her informant. And when our researcher explained that about research and our purpose of coming she was told to go to the next house in case if she did not bring the scarf with her as a gift in exchange to her answers.

After such experiences of the research group members we discussed all aforementioned issues as examples of research ethics and possible ways of avoiding conflict with prospective informants and villagers in general. Based on our joint discussions we came to conclusion that research ethics is situational and all raise ethical issues during research activities should be solved in accordance with particular situation. Situation that could be influenced by time, local culture, place etc.

Results

  • As a result of the seminar is expected a publication based on collected data by research group members in Talas and Issyk-Kol provinces.
  • Thus as a results of the seminar research group members from both provinces were enabled to learn more about the notion of resilience and its importance for the life;
  • Stronger connection with local villagers of Kichi-Jargylchak;
  • Stronger link built between research group members from Issyk-Kol with the research group members of Talas province;
  • We have translated definition of resilience and based on agreement of Resilience Allaince staff all information about resilience can be posted to Wiki site with the help of our colleagues from RA.