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Philosophische Fakultät - Jahrgang 2008

 

Titel

Cotton, Rice & Water

Autor

Geert Jan Albert Veldwisch

Publikationsform

Dissertation

Abstract

This study is about the organisation of agricultural production and the distribution of water for agriculture in the post-soviet context of a slowly reforming authoritarian regime. The study is based on 12 months of field research conducted between February 2005 and October 2006 in the irrigation and drainage network of Khorezm province, Uzbekistan. Four WUAs were selected as case studies. The concrete methods deployed for the fieldwork were (1) direct observations of objects, events, procedures, and social interactions; (2) semi- and non-structured interviews with key informants; and (3) a household survey.
The studied situation is characterised by reforms that echo the sound of privatisation and neo-liberal reform, while in practice central planning and state control have shown to be persistent, though not unchanging. By moving from collective farming to household-based fermer enterprises, for the individual risks and benefits in agricultural production have increased. The logics of agricultural production are further discussed along the lines of the three forms of production that were distinguished in this study. They are the state-ordered form of production (of cotton and wheat), the commercial form of production (of mainly rice and fodder) and the household form of production (of a variety of food products for home consumption). Each form of production has its specific form of organisation of inputs, labour, state control, distribution of benefits, and marketing.
The main question addressed in this study is how the implemented land and water reforms affect the distribution of water. In Khorezm water is relatively abundant available, which eases the task of water distribution. In combination with a historic trajectory of collective agriculture and the continuation of a restrictive political regime this created a situation in which social dynamics between water users are not strongly articulated. The three forms of production each have their own ‘logic’ as regards water management; for state-ordered cotton fermers call on the state organisations, for commercial rice fermers depend on their personal connections, and for household production water uses are small and informal. The household production water users are politically ‘untouchable’ in a way as household production provides for the basic livelihood security of the majority of the rural population.
The Uzbek government has top-down established WUAs in place of the former collective farms. Formally they are user-managed organisations, but in practice they are strictly controlled by the state. Among other things the WUAs fulfil important roles in the implementation of (state) control over water distribution and agricultural production. Farmers strategise in different ways to secure their access to water, in which they makes use of their socio-political status and ties and of the spatial and technological situation of the field.
The way the irrigation system has been designed and constructed during the period of the USSR expresses the existence of unquestioned centralised managerial control and singularity of purpose, allowing a fully pragmatic and instrumental approach to layout and hydraulic design. The strict state control over cropping patterns and agricultural practices at field level, combined with authoritarian control of society and minimal personal interests in increased water use, and an abundance of water created a situation in which there was no need for irrigation technology that restricted water use. In the context of increased dynamics over water distribution at the WUA level, the role of technology is gaining in importance, not only in the dynamics between farmers, but also in that between the state on the one hand and farmers on the other.

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© Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn | Veröffentlicht: 2008