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Kassam, Karim-Aly. 2009. “Viewing Change Through the Prism of Indigenous Human Ecology: Findings from the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs” Human Ecology, 37(6): 377-390.


Abstract: The effects of socioecological transformations such as climate change, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and civil war are examined for 14 villages in the valleys of the Pamir Mountains in the historical Badakhshan region, now divided between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Preliminary findings indicate concern for food sovereignty, evidence of biocultural impacts of climate change, an increasing burden on women, debilitating opium addiction, the ecological importance of sacred sites, and other priorities related to sustainable livelihoods, such as energy needs (for fuel and lighting) and physical and social infrastructure in the form of roads and schools. In the complex setting of the Pamir Mountains, characterized by both cultural and ecological diversity and marked by artificial political boundaries, the creative and pragmatic interaction between indigenous and scientific knowledge sustains the best hope for survival. Applied research must combine communities of inquirers (research institutions) with communities of social practitioners (farmers, pastoralists, and civil society institutions) to facilitate indigenous participation in generating context-specific knowledge. The goal of such research is practical outcomes that will meet the urgent priorities of village communities. This paper establishes a baseline from which undertake applied human ecological research related to livelihood security.