Central Asia is well-known for its luscious fruits, and there is no shortage of choice. But today that appears to be at risk. The genetic diversity of fruit species is under threat due to a plethora of environmental problems such as overgrazing, deforestation and use of uniform high-yielding varieties. As a result, traditional diversity-based farming systems as a whole are in decline. To make matters worse, laws and policies in Central Asian countries on biodiversity conservation are not well-suited to support conservation of fruit species. Adding to the problem is the fact that knowledge farmers and researchers have about wild and cultivated fruit genetic resources is dispersed and fragmented, out of date, and lacks the benefits of modern technologies.
Dealing with all these issues has been behind the Bioversity International/UNEP-GEF Project titled "In situ/on-farm conservation and use of agrobiodiversity in Central Asia" (http://centralasia.bioversity.asia). Since 2006 the project has been helping to ensure in situ/on-farm conservation and use of horticultural crops and wild fruit species for sustainable agricultural development, food security, and environmental stability.
One of the project objectives is to provide farmers, local communities, and institutions with knowledge and policies to conserve in situ/on-farm horticultural crops and wild fruit species in Central Asia and make sure they use them in a sustainable way. What is more, the project seeks to offer better options to policymakers to improve laws and policies on conservation and use of fruit genetic resources.
Training farmers and researchers, and various support activities, also form an important part of the project. So Bioversity International and its partners periodically arrange training courses. One such event was recently organized in Uzbekistan. The training workshop, Use of information resources in scientific research, took place on 12 March 2013 at the Tashkent State Agrarian University and 14 March 2013 at the Samarkand State University. The training sessions, led by Maria Garruccio, Manager at the Information and Research Support Services of Bioversity International, briefed participants on ways to work with web search engines, web databases, open information resources, and to manage information and use social media tools in research. In particular the course participants learnt about such specialized search engines as Scirus and Google Scholar, and Mendeley, which is the biggest crowd-sourced catalogue on the web. More than 60 postgraduate students and university lecturers attended the course.
This workshop was a continuation of efforts directed at conservation and sustainable agricultural development. No doubt increasing research potential of local scientists will aid in conservation efforts and add up to improved policies and conservation practices.