Agrarian reform and water resource management: A case study and lessons from Tajikistan

Navruz Nekbakhtshoev a*, Suresh Chandra Babu b

a Indiana University, 107 South Indiana Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

b International Food Policy Research Institute, Eye Street, 1201 I St NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA

*Corresponding author


Suresh Chandra Babu:

Research paper

This article belongs to the Special Section “30 years of farm restructuring and water management reforms in Central Asia”


This paper examines the preconditions for collective action in the context of Water User Associations (WUAs) in Tajikistan. The paper uses qualitative case studies of five WUAs from three cotton-producing districts of Khatlon region in Tajikistan. Findings suggest that the ability of WUAs to generate collective action for the benefit of the rural community depends on factors internal and external to WUAs. The WUAs in our study tended to exhibit top-down organizational forms which might not bode well for their sustainability. WUAs were set up by donors in a setting where large, collectivized farms and vestiges of command agriculture persist alongside small individual farms. The presence of large farms among smaller holdings makes it difficult for WUAs to distribute water equitably among its members. Local government officials tend to favor the interest of big planters over small independent farms and  can exert pressure on WUAs to skew water distribution. By studying the institutional challenges facing water resource management in Tajikistan, a major natural resource challenge facing all the Central Asian economies, the paper identifies opportunities for speeding up the process of agrarian reforms currently underway in all the transition economies.

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For citation: Nekbakhtshoev, N., & Babu, S. C. (2022). Agrarian Reform and Water Resource Management : A Case Study and Lessons from Tajikistan. Central Asian Journal of Water Research, 8(1), 1–26.



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irrigation, Tajikistan, water user associations