Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Tom Perreault


Community Based Organization, Development, Kitchen Garden, Tajikistan, USAID, Water Users Associations

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The Republic of Tajikistan possesses the largest amount of internally produced surface water in Central Asia; however, poor irrigation management has led to water shortages in agrarian communities. In support of government efforts to reform water management, international development actors have established Water Users’ Associations (WUAs) throughout the country. WUAs are non-governmental groups of irrigation water users responsible for local infrastructure maintenance, conflict resolution, and scheduling water distribution. These groups are expected to increase participation in irrigation management, the equity and efficiency of water supply to agricultural plots and by extension, crop yields and food security. Drawing on interviews with development actors, government representatives, and WUA leaders, and rural households, I show that plans to improve rural wellbeing through WUA creation are undermined by legal frameworks that limit formal participation in associations to one water user – farm managers. Reinforced by the actions and inactions of the government and development actors, this policy is drawn from and advances a fragmented understanding of the irrigation landscape, wherein the cultivation of irrigation dependent household plots is devalued or made invisible. Neglecting to actively include theses plots in WUA structures can contribute to reduced household water access, prompting crop failure and increased food insecurity among rural families. This thesis contributes to ongoing discussions about the risks and opportunities associated with approaches to rural development and community-based natural resource management globally.


Open Access

Available for download on Saturday, June 20, 2020