Workshop held on Place-based Studies in Pakistan and China under HICAP


The Place-based Studies (PBS) research team, comprising researchers from ICIMOD and the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo (CICERO), met with new members from the Asian International Rivers Center (AIRC) in China and the Mountain Agricultural Research Centre (MARC) in Gilgit, Pakistan, for a methodology workshop and to exchange experiences in ethnographic research as part of  the Food Security component under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP)

Researchers undertaking a Focussed Group Discussion in Assam, India 

Photo: Dhurba Chetri

The Place-based Studies follow a joint design for the analysis of farming system in the different river basins being researched under HICAP. The design employs ethnographic and other qualitative research tools to analyse changing ‘spaces of opportunity’ for farmers as a result of climate and socioeconomic change; identify bottlenecks in adaptation; and show the variation in adaptation that exists in the HICAP research sites. Two studies were conducted in 2013 in Dolakha (Nepal) and Assam (India) and three more are planned for 2014 in Uttarakhand (India), Gilgit (Pakistan) and Yunnan (China). These in-depth studies of the perceptions and practices of farmers provide an understanding of the current realities and challenges arising from changes in local farming systems. These Place-based Studies are a starting-point for policy engagement to support flexibility and innovation as forms of adaptation, to strengthen resilience and coping capacity in disaster situations, and to focus on women farmers by using gender-sensitive approaches in agriculture (e.g. climate-smartness). 

Researchers at the three day workshop discuss on the PBS methodology 

Photo: Sarah Marie Nischalke/ICIMOD

At the three-day workshop, researchers from CICERO – Nina Holmelin and Prof Tor Aase – introduced preliminary results from their two field studies in Dolakha, Nepal, showing how different approaches in farming impact on the flexibility and sustainability of the farming and livelihood systems. Suman Bisht and Sarah Nischalke from ICIMOD jointly presented the findings from Assam in 2013, which reveal the local farming system’s flexibility to flood stress and the importance of diversity in agriculture and livelihood sources to spread risk and enable communities to cope with disaster. Different PBS research tools – observation, household surveys, case studies, and statistics – were discussed and the importance of primary data collection highlighted; conducting the research oneself provides a detailed understanding of the specific location and its dynamics, and the relevance of ethnographic tools in collecting location-specific knowledge. Challenges in implementing the PBS methodology, especially in China and Pakistan, were reviewed and adjustments made accordingly.

The publication resulting from this research aims to contribute to the discourse on adaptive capacity to uncertainty and will focus on concepts such as flexibility, innovation, and resilience. Having all of the researchers from the different regions together to share their diverse expertise proved extremely valuable in relation to the reflections on research design and theory, and to the practical discussions. Final results from all studies will be presented in the Adaptation Conference to be held in November 2014.