KNOTS Summer School: The Benefits of Using Transdisciplinary Research for Impacting Policy Change

KNOTS Summer School: The Benefits of Using Transdisciplinary Research for Impacting Policy Change

While initially difficult to grasp and often equally hard to plan and implement, the foundations and practice of transdisciplinary research have the important ability to create more inclusive and impactful projects, better benefitting the community and transferring knowledge to multiple parties. In a development climate where community engagement, particularly of the most marginalized populations, justice seeking and empowerment have become the goals of practitioners and increasingly, researchers, utilizing a transdisciplinary methodology and mindset can help achieve the goals of both scientists and participants, closing the gap that often exists in such settings. Throughout the training and subsequent field work, I not only found the methodology sessions but also the conversations and debates incredibly insightful for my own work, research and future goals. As someone who has taken up work in the development sector with a particular interest in giving voices to members of society long forgotten, ignored or targeted, I believe employing transdisciplinary methods is something that will more easily allow me to achieve those goals.

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Are We Ready for a Trans-boundary Compensation Mechanism for Water Benefit-sharing?

Are We Ready for a Trans-boundary Compensation Mechanism for Water Benefit-sharing?

The Greater Mekong Forum on Water Food and Energy provides a great chance for participants to exchange their knowledge and views on international rivers in the region. At the most recent Forum in Bangkok, in November 2016, my attention was caught by a presentation titled “From MRC (Mekong River Commission) to LMC (Lancang-Mekong Cooperation) towards a healthy economy and healthy river in Greater Mekong: the core transboundary compensative mechanism for water benefit-sharing.” During the forum, when Professor He Daming from Yunnan University proposed a transboundary compensation mechanism for water benefit-sharing after introducing the Chinese-initiated Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, launched in 2016, participants around my table first understood that after building eight dams on the upper Lancang-Mekong mainstream, China finally admitted those dams caused negative impacts to downstream states and would like to offer certain compensation under the LMC. However, when the presentation reached its end and a short discussion followed, several pairs of eyes widened when they found out that what was being proposed instead was that downstream states might get a bill under the transboundary compensation mechanism if they expected river flow augmentation from the upstream dams during times of drought, or that they had to offer to pay China if they asked for no more dams to be built on the upstream.

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Women Matter: Our Lives, Our Voices and the Decisions We Make for Our Development

Women Matter: Our Lives, Our Voices and the Decisions We Make for Our Development

What are the existing conditions of ethnic rural women in two villages in the downstream area of the proposed Mong Ton Dam project in relation to men in their day-to-day life? How do women control and get access to resources at home, in the community and the country? What would be the implications for them if the large-scale dam is built?

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Mapping Gaps And Opportunities For Inclusive Hydropower Governance In Myanmar

Mapping Gaps And Opportunities For Inclusive Hydropower Governance In Myanmar

By Peter, MK31 Fellow

The political transition in present-day Myanmar has brought forward tremendous economic, social, and environmental change and an associated expansion in challenges and opportunities: accelerating capital investment, intensifying resource use and extraction, and heightened conflict partly due to non-inclusive development model.

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Ethnobotanical Study of Lashio District’s Medicinal Plants and Herbs, and their Daily Uses

Ethnobotanical Study of Lashio District’s Medicinal Plants and Herbs, and their Daily Uses

By Dr. Mar Mar Aye, MK31 Fellow

Traditionally, local communities throughout Myanmar have extensively relied on plants for medicinal and health purposes. In today’s world, this traditional herbal approach to medicine still occupies a central role within many rural communities, given the clear lack of transport and health infrastructure in the region, as well as the remoteness of the villages.

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Changing Lives In Xiao Shaba “New Village”, Yunnan Province

Changing Lives In Xiao Shaba “New Village”, Yunnan Province

By Zhong Mei, MK31 Fellow

Faced with a large and ever-expanding population, China’s employment issue has been a growing concern for the country and its people. With a plethora of ethnic minorities, Yunnan province has been strongly impacted in terms of employment due to the growing population, economy, and new policies. In addition, disparities between men and women have prominently widened amidst overall unemployment concerns. My research focuses on Liuku Town, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province, and aims to uncover and analyze employment differences between men and women in a resettlement area village called Xiao Shaba that has been built for the planned Liuku hydropower project.

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Co-producing Research Along the Nam Kong River

Co-producing Research Along the Nam Kong River

By Kim, MK31 Fellow

In Myanmar, my whiteness, my gender, and my language flag me as an outsider and in the Shan state they are my anti-passport, preventing me from traveling to the brown-zoned countryside. I set out this past summer wanting to investigate how this contestation of natural resource use along the Salween river effects local communities, but quickly hit barrier after barrier. My hands tied by my identity and my location locked by my foreigner status, I couldn’t figure out how to actually do the research.

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Changing Land Cover And Socio–economic Conditions In Bawlakhe District In The Thanlwin River Basin

Changing Land Cover And Socio–economic Conditions In Bawlakhe District In The Thanlwin River Basin

By Dr. Khin Sandar Aye, MK31 Fellow

The Thanlwin River Basin is one of the four major watershed areas in Myanmar covering the Shan, Kayah, Kayin and Mon states. In Kayah State, the Thanlwin River flows from North to South and is characterized by a variety of ethnic groups living amongst an extremely bio-diverse environment. Local ethnic people are crucially dependent on this watershed area for their survival, through its importance in terms of food, water, security, fuel and income more generally. In addition, the economy of this area relies to a very large extent on agriculture, forest extraction, and mining, which are all land-intensive activities.

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How Can We Strengthen Water Governance on the Salween River?

How Can We Strengthen Water Governance on the Salween River?

By Saw John Bright, MK31 Fellow

In late February 2013, the Burmese government announced six dam projects that were to be built on the Salween River in Shan, Kayah (Karenni) ,and Karen states. The investment and know-how would come from Chinese and Thai corporations in cooperation with three Burmese corporations. However, the proposed dams are located in active civil war zones, which will make their development and construction even more complicated.

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Turning Points in the Life of a Young Social Worker and Researcher Along the Thanlwin River

Turning Points in the Life of a Young Social Worker and Researcher Along the Thanlwin River

By Nang Shining, MK31 Fellow

In this blog, Nang Shining presents the perspective of a youth researcher who is working with her in her participatory action research-designed fellowship project on women’s engagement and their role in water governance particularly at the proposed Mong Ton hydropower project in Shan State, Myanmar. Nang Shining highlights both some of the initial findings of the field work, and also the lessons learned by the researcher herself.

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While Optimistic About the Nu River’s Future, Chinese Women Environmentalists Also Face Government Clampdown

While Optimistic About the Nu River’s Future, Chinese Women Environmentalists Also Face Government Clampdown

By Hannah, MK31 Fellow

Chinese politics and civil society can seem both complex and difficult to understand for outsiders. However, my curiosity to better understand what is happening in the world’s rising superpower led me to choose women’s civil society in China as the focus for my fellowship research on water governance on the Salween River (known as the Nu or Nujiang in China).

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Local Voices Still to Be Heard In Wan Hsala Village, Shan State

Local Voices Still to Be Heard In Wan Hsala Village, Shan State

By Hnin Wut Yee, MK31 Fellow

Wan Hsala is a secluded village along the Wan Hsala Stream housing a little over 30 households with a total population of approximately 100. As one of the small villages along the Salween River in the Eastern Shan state, the majority of its villagers are part of the Shan ethnic minority, while a few are ethnic Lisu and Bamar. Today, these villagers are facing actual and potential negative impacts from a hydropower construction project started about a decade ago. The local villager's limited knowledge of their rights and their lack of participation in the project have caused them to be taken advantage of. It is crucial that a solid framework of national and international standards reinforced with a strict enforcement vehicle is in place before any further project decisions are made.

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Thanlwin River Estuary – Challenges for Fishing Communities

Thanlwin River Estuary – Challenges for Fishing Communities

By Dr. Cherry Aung, MK31 Fellow

As one of the longest trans-boundary rivers and the only major one that still flows freely without dams in Southeast Asia, the Thanlwin river supports the livelihoods of approximately 10 million people. The river hosts rich fisheries and supports fertile farmland vital to the food security of many ethnic minority communities living along the river banks and beyond. Yet, like most rivers in the world, it is facing multiple pressures from both natural and human causes along its length, which could affect the ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands of local people who depend upon them

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Debating the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Asia: Regional Policy and Local Praxis

Debating the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Asia: Regional Policy and Local Praxis

By Carl Middleton

n Asia and globally, the water-energy-food nexus has received growing attention from policy makers, researchers, and practitioners. A key premise of ‘the nexus’ is that water use is interdependent with energy and food production. Thus, from a nexus viewpoint, the relationship between water, energy and food should be understood, and if demand increases in one then trade-offs must be managed with the others.

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Finding Common Ground: Co-produced Wetland Zoning in Northeast Thailand

Finding Common Ground: Co-produced Wetland Zoning in Northeast Thailand

In 1993, on the Mun River in Si Sa Ket Province, Northeast Thailand, an irrigation weir called Rasi Salai was built that would lead to almost two decades of at times intense conflict between the communities whose livelihoods were harmed by the project and the government agencies that built and operated it. Since the late 2000s, however, the conflict has gradually thawed as a participatory social impact assessment was produced supported by the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), the government partly compensated affected communities, and negotiations began on how lost livelihoods could be recovered.

 

In this context, the RECOVER project in Northeast Thailand, led by the Mekong Sub-Region Social Research Center (MSSRC),  Ubon Ratchathani University and with support from SUMERNET, has worked together with community leaders and affected villagers, community-based organizations and non-government organizations, local authorities, and government officers from RID and the Office of Natural Resource and Environment in a collaborative wetland mapping project. The project addresses a self-identified goal agreed upon amongst the project partners to clearly categorize a wetland area affected by the Rasi Salai dam, and designate permitted uses within it which may range from rice and cassava growing, to fish or forest conservation areas.

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Workshop on Preparing Detailed Research Design

Workshop on Preparing Detailed Research Design

The first workshop for the project was hosted by the Vietnam Academy of Water Resources in Hanoi on 20-22 June 2015. 

The “Capacity Building and Professional Development of Water Governance and Regional Development Practitioners in the Mekong, Salween and Red river basins” project will strengthen the capacity for undertaking research and policy engagement of scholars and practitioners of water, land and energy use, management and governance in the Red, Mekong and Salween river basins. It also intends to build a learning community amongst these scholars and practitioners.

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First steps toward wetland and agro-ecological farming recovery in the Mekong Region

First steps toward wetland and agro-ecological farming recovery in the Mekong Region

Across the Mekong Region, a great diversity of wetlands and the agro-ecological farming that they support are central to many rural communities’ livelihoods, and contribute to local and national economies. Unfortunately, many areas have been degraded or lost due as a consequence of large-scale infrastructure development, including for irrigation and hydroelectricity. In October 2014, our SUMERNET Phase 3 project got underway in three locations in the Mekong Region in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam aiming to contribute towards the recovery of such wetlands, their agro-ecological farming systems, and local ‘situational’ knowledge associated with both.

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