Building up teaching capacity for sustainable mountain development in the Caucasus

Tbilisi National Park, Georgia
Tbilisi National Park, Georgia Photo: Heino Meessen, CDE

The scientific cooperation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland, or SCOPES, programme sought to strengthen participants’ capacity in university teaching. Researchers from the Armenian State Pedagogical University, the Djavakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Georgia, and CDE developed methods to improve teaching on topics of sustainable mountain development and resource governance. In the summer 2017, they developed and tested transdisciplinary approaches in a field study course in Lagodekhi, Georgia.

The main thematic blocs of the course were as follows:

  • Fundamentals of sustainable development
  • Sustainable development in mountain regions of the Caucasus: Success stories and challenges
  • Resource governance versus rational use of natural resources in a transition context
  • Land management and livelihoods
  • Decentralization and development
  • Fieldwork exposure as a crucial educational step 

Fieldwork exposure – a crucial educational step

Collaborators in the fieldwork course included leading professors of the SCOPES programme and master’s students from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Switzerland as well as representatives of the local government and NGOs. Participants tested transdisciplinary methods by conducting village-based surveys in five specific fields:

  • Conducting a socio-ecological baseline survey
  • Mapping housing and public infrastructure
  • Large protected areas, participation of the local population, and benefits
  • Ethnic composition
  • Evaluation of natural hazards
interviews with village residents in Chisabavra, northern Georgia
Students conduct interviews with village residents in Chisabavra, northern Georgia, during the fieldwork course. Photo: Heino Meessen, CDE

The results of the field surveys and mapping exercises were presented to the local government and local NGOs. The data were well received by representatives of the NGO “Green Movement of Georgia” and the head of Lagodekhi’s government.

The three partner universities see their consortium as a “win-win” cooperation for education in the area of sustainable mountain development. It brings together a university focused on teaching (Department of Physical Geography, Armenian State Pedagogical University), a geography faculty specialized in planning (Department for Regional Geography and Landscape Planning, Iv. Djavakhishvili Tbilisi State University), and a university centre with extensive experience in international development cooperation in research and education (CDE).

CDE and its partners can draw on 20 years of experience in developing partnerships with universities in the East. This experience, partly obtained in SDC programmes in the Central Asian and Caucasus regions, has been crucial for implementing a related follow-up strategy focusing on capacity development for young scientists. 

Project duration: 2015–2018

Georgian map
Image at right: Georgian map detail from 1958 at a scale of 1:25,000. Until recently, the map was only limitedly available. Image at left: New maps at scales from 1:10,000 to 1:200,000, which were created with the help of students in the fieldwork course. The up-to-date maps were given as a gift to the head of Lagodekhi’s local government.