As delegates are gathering this week in Tajikistan for the High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,” 2018-2028, it is an opportune moment to share some lessons learned in improving gender inclusiveness in water management in Tajikistan.

Khatlon Region is one of the most populated areas of Tajikistan and located to the south of the conference venue in the nation’s capital of Dushanbe. About 60 percent of the region’s people are employed by the agricultural sector, which depends almost entirely on irrigation. However, growing numbers of rural women in Khatlon are being left behind to manage farms, while males migrate elsewhere in search of work. With little social and financial support, these women struggle to find productive roles in the irrigation management system that replaced the centralized Soviet model. Improving gender inclusiveness in irrigation management may improve the country’s food security, rural livelihood opportunities, and social stability.   

Irrigation management in this Central Asian nation now revolves around Water User Associations (WUAs). WUAs are groups of water users, such as irrigators, who pool their resources for shared benefit. Recent research by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) validates the key importance of WUAs. However, the research also outlines the need to increase investments in capacity building for women’s inclusion in farming activities – especially as their workloads rapidly mount.


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