ZEF goes ahead with project in Uzbekistan

April 24, 2007.  

How to combine economic efficiency with ecological sustainability in the Aral Sea region is the central issue addressed by an international team of researchers led by the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn since 2001. The Federal German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) has now given its approval for continuing the research project in Uzbekistan until mid 2011 and will provide funds of 5.4 million euro for this four year extension.


The interdisciplinary project „Economic and ecological restructuring in Khorezm, Uzbekistan“ started its research in 2001 in the northwest of the country, a region dominated by agriculture. “We are developing concepts how to make use of the natural resources in the region in a more efficient way from an economic point of view and simultaneously in an ecologically more sustainable manner”, says Professor Dr. Paul Vlek, project leader and director at ZEF. “At the heart of our research efforts is the agricultural sector, being the backbone of Uzbekistan’s economy”.


„We want to interrupt the vicious circle of increasing rural poverty and the wasting of natural resources”, explains PD Dr. Christopher Martius, the project coordinator in Bonn. “We are therefore working out concepts to improve agricultural policies at national and regional levels, to set up new institutions at all levels and to develop technological innovations for improving farm and water management at local level”.


In addition, the project contributes substantially to building scientific capacity among the young Uzbek academic generation. More than 80 scientists are involved in the project, the majority of them coming from the region. Up to now, nine out of 23 doctoral students have finished their PhDs in the framework of the project, among them six Uzbek students. Most of the graduates received their doctoral degree from the University of Bonn. Also, 33 students finished their BSc and 46 their MSc studies at Universities in Uzbekistan.


The ZEF-led research project is the largest and from Uzbek side the most important scientific cooperation in the country. It is being conducted in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), UNESCO, and local partners such as the University of Urgench. Also, the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) will be involved in the coming research phase. The project has a permanent representation located at the site of the University of Urgench. Here, modern office facilities were built with support of UNESCO, providing computer rooms with geographical information systems (gis).


Alma van der Veen