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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development (2000 - 2009), Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

Agrarian Reform, Gender and Land Rights in Uzbekistan

This monograph, based on fieldwork carried out in the provinces of Andijan and Khorezm between 2000-2001, analyses the gender-differentiated outcomes of post-Soviet agrarian reforms in Uzbekistan. The first section situates the agrarian reform process in the context of the political economy of Uzbekistan, a country where cotton production for export accounts for a substantial proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), foreign exchange receipts and employment. The crisis in public finance following the break-up of the Soviet Union prompted a dual process of demonetization and reagrarianization in rural Uzbekistan, increasing reliance on household and subsidiary plots for self-subsistence and on off-farm and non-farm informal activities significantly. The simultaneous objectives of maintaining cotton export revenues and of providing a basic level of self-subsistence for rural workers acted to consolidate the division between a stagnating smallholder sector and the export sector, the two being mutually dependent upon one another. This study shows how a focus on gender can shed light on the nature and mechanisms of this mutual dependency.

The second section uses enterprise-level data to illustrate two pathways of farm restructuring. The shift from collective farms to joint-stock shareholding companies (shirkats) has resulted in a process of labour retrenchment that has affected women significantly. The liquidation of collective farms in favour of independent farms organized as Farmers’ Associations has consolidated farm management as a male occupation. While the actual labour input of women into farming activities on household plots, private subsidiary plots and in cotton production has remained extremely high, they are increasingly incorporated into the workforce either as unpaid family labourers or as casual labourers earning piece-wage rates.

The final section analyses changing livelihood options for rural women. Non-agricultural occupations in health, education and rural industry were major casualties of the post-Soviet recession. Precarious forms of self-employment in informal trade and services remain the only avenues for alternative income-generation for many. However, there are increasing pressures on these occupational niches due to an oversupply of unemployed, low-skilled women, giving this type of diversification an involutionary character. The decline in women’s opportunities for gainful employment is accompanied by an “informalization” of the marriage contract. The official registration of marriage and divorce are seen as costly obligations that can easily be dispensed with in favour of the nikoh and talaq (Islamic marriage and divorce). Although there have been no legal changes sanctioning polygamy or unilateral divorce, these may become widespread in practice. At present, the representation of landless or poor rural women’s organized interests seems a remote possibility in a context where neither civil society organizations, such as NGOs, nor professional associations or political parties have any significant presence.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Jun 2002
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8208
    From: UNRISD/UN Publications