The College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources partnered with Utah State University and Samarkand State University in Uzbekistan to educate Uzbekistan lawmakers, university officials and graduate students about rangeland ecology and management.
Educating policy makers
In April of last year, Uzbekistan lawmakers passed the “On Pastures” law to address degradation of rangeland and pasture throughout the country. With its passage, Samarkand State University Rector Khalmuradov Rustam Ibragimovich, head of the university, invited University of Nevada, Reno Professors Barry Perryman and Brad Schultz, and Utah State University Associate Professor and Range Management Extension Specialist Eric Thacker, to teach policy makers about the history of American environmental policy related to rangelands. This January, Ibragimovich was elected as a senator for the Supreme Assembly of Uzbekistan.
“Khalmuradov has a very thoughtful mission for the university and the country,” said Perryman, who teaches rangeland ecology, and is also with the College’s Experiment Station unit. “He wants to make the lives of the citizens of Uzbekistan better, and he understands that for the country to be strong in the region, their agricultural capacities and management need improvement, which is why he reached out to us for help. Agriculture is key – the foundation to be strong, a necessity.”
Perryman; Schultz; Thacker, who teaches wildland resources; and Samarkand State University’s Toshpulot Rajabov, senior researcher with the university’s Laboratory of Environmental Problems; put on a two-day rangeland seminar to educate 20-25 policy makers at Samarkand State University last September and October. They shared their own experiences working with rangeland, general rangeland ecology practices and what elements make a good policy. They also discussed some pitfalls the U.S. faced and how to avoid them.
Educating future policy makers
After meeting with policy makers, the team spent two weeks teaching a rangeland ecology and management short course to over 20 graduate students, mostly from Samarkand State University, but also a few from other schools. The course, the first of its kind in Uzbekistan, covered rangeland management history; plant physiology; and the interaction of plants, animals and soils. In addition, the course went over what to consider when creating a grazing management plan, such as animal nutrition, plant nutrient quality, animal food preferences, and weather patterns and effects. The students also spent a day in the field watching and practicing monitoring techniques, including measuring plant density and cover.
“The students were incredibly receptive and appreciative of the information we provided, and were asking for more,” said Schultz, who is also an Extension educator for the College’s Extension unit.
Moving forward, Ibragimovich, Rajabov, Thacker, Perryman and Schultz hope to continue expanding on the partnership among the universities and the government as they develop more permanent education opportunities for rangeland management. They want to establish an accredited rangeland ecology and management program at Samarkand State University and create a way for more foreign university faculty and students to visit Uzbekistan to solve food sustainability issues.
“We’re working to develop this into a larger education and research effort,” said Schultz. “We hope this leads to opportunities for both faculty and students to come here for things we can teach them.”
One outcome of the partnership already in the early stages of creation is a new master’s degree program related to animal and rangeland sciences shared between the University of Nevada, Reno and Samarkand State University. The plan is for students from one university to spend one year studying at the other university as part of the program. There are two options for the program being considered: one where students earn their master’s degree from their home university, and one where students could earn a double-degree – one from each university.