State-facilitated bottom up in agricultural water governance and sustainability of solutions to recurring water stress: a case study from smallholders’ perspective in Uzbekistan

Davron Niyazmetov, Ilkhom Soliev, Inna Rudenko

Scientific Article


Agricultural water stress is a critical problem undermining socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability of water and land resources in many agriculture-based economies. Uzbekistan is an example of such case, where for coping with the problem, water reforms such as creation of Water User Associations (WUAs) attempted to decentralize the decision-making to some extent encouraging bottom-up approach to water governance. However, the results have been disappointing so far, particularly visible in persistence of priority in water allocation for farmers with state-ordered crops and neglect of smallholders as legitimate water users. The study presented here describes some of the discrepancies between paper and practice in the example of water governance in one studied community. Using household survey, interviews, and focus group discussion, the authors show that true transformation into bottom up cannot be achieved through pure state-facilitation, especially if it remains on paper and largely limited to technical measures. Such state-facilitated bottom up is bound to fail with the arrival of new levels of water stress. Preferential treatment also undermines incentives of farmers to improve productivity in using water and land resources. The authors highlight that a balanced attention is needed in relation to reforms that encourage not only supply-side solutions, even though they are very necessary. Reforms are also necessary directed at enabling smallholders to participate in decision-making in dealing with water stress, and take more active role in communicating their needs, negotiating fair allocation, and coordinating implementation of agreed water plans.

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irrigation, smallholders, social solutions, water scarcity

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