Vice-president of Chiang Mai University calls for integrated research in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

There are manifold problems facing the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the Mekong River and its watersheds. Dealing with the problems starts with coordinated research


Associate Professor Doctor Sermkiat Jomjunyong, the vice-president for research and academic services at Chiang Mai University, Thailand, is calling for multidisciplinary, cross-border research collaboration throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region, beginning in 2015, to meet the multiple challenges of ensuring food security, improving livelihoods and adapting to climate change.

The year marks the beginning of integration for the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and represents a perfect opportunity for coordinating research, he said.

‘Given my responsibility for research at the university, I have been talking with many groups about climate change, agroforestry, land use and natural resources management’, said Dr Jomjunyong. ‘These issues have to be worked on by a network of researchers, not one institution alone, because they affect all countries in the sub-region.

The Chiang Mai University senate, which is a policy body, wants to position the university as a leader in research in northern ASEAN and sees the renewed partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre as strategically important given both research bodies’ focus on multidisciplinary research, their experience in uplands with high biodiversity threatened by land degradation and links with the other countries of the upper Greater Mekong Sub-region.

‘The World Agroforestry Centre is fully supportive of Dr Jomjunyong’s plans’, said Dr Prasit Wangpakapattanawong, the Centre’s Thailand program coordinator and a director of the Knowledge Support Centre for the Greater Mekong Sub-region, a joint research centre established with Chiang Mai University. ‘We see the same need for coordinated research—especially in remoter areas of Myanmar, Lao, Cambodia and Viet Nam—to understand the common and unique problems throughout the sub-region. The Centre has been conducting regional projects with international and national partners for many years, and national projects in Thailand and Viet Nam, and now is the time to bring all our expertise and knowledge together. We are currently undertaking a scoping study in Lao and Cambodia to better understand how we can contribute our specialist technical expertise, such as our negotiation-support methods, land-use planning and agroforestry system technologies’.

Dr Prasit Wangpakapattanawong (l) and Associate Professor Doctor Sermkiat Jomjunyong

Dr Prasit Wangpakapattanawong (l) and Associate Professor Doctor Sermkiat Jomjunyong

Chiang Mai University, similarly, is in the process of setting up national and regional networks, including a closer collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre.

‘I want to see more multidisciplinary research with our neighbours in Lao, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Myanmar, in particular’, said Dr Jomjunyong, ‘because a strength of the university is our diverse research groups—for example, humanities and social sciences, health sciences, and science and technology—that can share much with our colleagues to really understand transboundary issues. Working in an integrated fashion will enable us to solve problems locally, nationally and regionally to make society and the environment better’.

Last year, the World Agroforestry Centre celebrated 20 years of research in Thailand and this year Chiang Mai University marks its 50th. Both organizations will hold a celebratory seminar, Greater Mekong Sub-region Seminar on Climate Change and Sustainable Resources Management, 3-4 December 2014, in Chiang Mai that will bring together other research organizations, development agencies and governments to establish a common approach to the land-use challenges facing the region.



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This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and the CGIAR Research Program on the Humid Tropics

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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