Irrigation Management in the Pamirs in Tajikistan: A Man's Domain?

L. Bossenbroek, M.Z. Zwarteveen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Families living in Gorno-Badakhshan—situated in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan—depend on irrigated agriculture to meet their subsistence needs. Because men predominate, and are most visible in, the operation and management of irrigation systems in this region, water-related activities are often labeled as masculine. Yet women historically played an important role in on-farm irrigation activities and even formed the majority of the agricultural workforce during the Soviet period. Today women are still responsible for the bulk of farming activities, including irrigation. This is partly a consequence of the difficulty of depending on farming alone for making a living, which leads many men to migrate elsewhere in search of employment. Drawing on 6 months of fieldwork in 2 villages in different irrigation systems, this article argues that although formal water rights and power are vested in men, this does not mean that women lack agency, nor is it necessarily a reflection of wider gender inequities. Understanding the power and equity implications of formal distributions of rights and powers among men and women requires an analysis that links formal rights to actual irrigation and farming practices and places them in broader historical and livelihood contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-275
JournalMountain Research and Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • gender
  • work

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