Rebecca Nixon (MS) won second place in the graduate student category at the 2016 Borlaug Poster Competition held in conjunction with Iowa State’s annual Norman Borlaug Lecture. Nixon’s poster, “‘Акча бар, суу бар’: Exploring impacts on women’s participation in irrigation management in southern Kyrgyzstan,” showcased her research findings with the Tian Shan Policy Center, a nonprofit located at the American University of Central Asia.
“Presenting and placing in the Borlaug Poster Competition was a great opportunity to share my research with the Iowa State community in a venue where research from the Central Asian region is uncommon,” Nixon said. “It was also an opportunity to get feedback from a diversity of a disciplines—input from individuals outside of my field helps me think about my research in new ways.”
Nixon returned to Iowa in July after living and conducting research in Kyrgyzstan for seven months. While there, she interviewed farmers and officials to explore local women's awareness of and participation in Water User Associations. Additionally, Nixon interacted with and received feedback from other scholars and experts studying water use in the Central Asia region. Ultimately her research revealed the complexity of community based natural resource management, which is impacted not only by gender but also by class, age, ethnicity, and social networks.
“Many respondents spoke about the barriers they experience in securing water access, participating in decision making processes, and leading in WUAs,” Nixon said. “But there were also signs of increasing inclusion. As a newly elected WUA director—the first female in this position in the research area—said, ‘In the beginning there are major difficulties in leadership, but we women will overcome them.’”
To fund her trip, Nixon received support from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Global Funding for Graduate Students Program, as well as the Butler Graduate Travel Award for International Study in Sustainable Livelihoods. In late October, Nixon also traveled to Princeton University to present her research findings at the Central Eurasian Studies Society Annual Conference. For additional information about Nixon’s work abroad, please visit her travel blog.