100 participants from 25 countries discuss sustainable land management, water management and climate change at WOCAT conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic

21 June 2011 Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic – From 21 to 22 June 2011, the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) organised a Share Fair on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.  His Excellency Torogul Bekov, Minister of Agriculture, Kyrgyz Republic delivered the opening remarks, stating the importance of managing natural resources in the face of increasing population, exposure to natural hazards and climate change - particularly in mountain areas - and promoting environmentally-friendly agricultural production. 
WOCAT’s vision is that land and livelihoods are improved through sharing and enhancing knowledge about sustainable land management (SLM). WOCAT supports innovation and decision-making processes in SLM by: networking among SLM specialists, developing standardized tools and methods for knowledge management and decision support, managing a global knowledge and information base on SLM and enhancing capacity of involved actors - from land users to policy.
“The conference will address how SLM can help face global and local needs in terms of addressing land degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change and variability and food insecurity and poverty in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It will focus on knowledge management and decision support for SLM at the local and national level. A second priority of the meeting will be on including the WOCAT knowledge management and decision support in all projects related to sustainable use of soil water and vegetation resources. 100 participants from 25 countries will also focus on two main themes; ‘Water Management and Climate Change Adaptation’ and ‘Sustainable Land Management and Pastoralism’,” said conference organiser Hanspeter Liniger, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Berne.
The Share Fair brings together over 50 organizations working in SLM to share information about their projects.  It will be followed by the 15th Annual WOCAT Workshop and Steering Meeting from 23 - 27 June 2011 in Naryn Oblast. As part of this workshop, delegates visited Tolok, en-route to Naryn and spent the day in the field. This is expected to lead to priority actions that could be undertaken by WOCAT members, institutions and governments in Central Asia to capitalize on the potential benefits of effective, integrated sustainable land management and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in dryland grazing systems.
“As an extension of our commitment to the region, the recently-launched Mountain Societies Research Centre at the University of Central Asia will continue to participating in such platforms as WOCAT, providing support for sustainable action.  In recent years, world food prices sky-rocketed causing severe hardship for poor and vulnerable people worldwide, pushing over100 million into poverty.  Sustainable pastoralism can be considered the most appropriate strategy to maintain human well-being in rangelands, as it provides secure livelihoods, conserves ecosystem services, promotes wildlife conservation and honours cultural values and traditions.  UCA’s support and development of a Herders’ Manual, blending traditional and scientific knowledge, provides simple, effective tools to improve both animal and pasture productivity,” said Dr Nasreen Dhanani, Deputy Director, University of Central of Asia.
The WOCAT events are jointly organized by the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Berne (CDE/UoB), Switzerland, with the CAMP Alatoo NGO for sustainable mountain development, the University of Central Asia (UCA), GIZ/CACILM (Central Asia Countries Initiative on Land Management) and National Centre for Competency in Research North-South (NCCR-NS) project with support of the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) and the management team: CDE, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Soils Resources and Information Centre (ISRIC).
This conference immediately follows the International Symposium on “Pastoralism in Central Asia: Status, Challenges and Opportunities in Mountain Areas” co-hosted by UCA and NCCR-NS from 13 – 18 June 2011. It included two components:  a series of scientific presentations and a policy roundtable, followed by field visits to Chui and Naryn districts, with participation from more than 140 researchers, policy makers, and development practitioners. 
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