Irrigation and poverty in Central Asia : a field assessment


Irrigation agriculture is critical to livelihoods in the republics of Central Asia, where it accounts for around 90% of crop production. However, in all of the Central Asian republics the vast network of irrigation and drainage (I&D) systems built during the 1960s-1980s has fallen into decay since the demise of the Soviet Union. Given the reliance on the republics on irrigated agriculture, it is clear that some investment will be needed, yet I&D systems are so dilapidated that, by any estimate available, the amount required needed to repair and/or upgrade existing infrastructure is higher than governments can support and donor agencies can deliver. This study was conceived as a field assessment component of a larger study concerning rehabilitation of irrigation networks in Central Asia and the reasons why rehabilitation should be done. The field assessment covers the views of water users concerning the degradation of their I&D networks and its effect on their lives, the ways in which they adapt to this situation, the linkage between I&D system degradation and their perceptions of poverty in their locales, and what they believe should be done to improve matters. Where sufficient information is available, emphasis is placed upon which water users are affected the most, who must adapt, and in what ways. This paper contains the following titles: executive summary, introduction, the degradation of irrigation and drainage systems, the effects of I&D system degradation on agricultural production, the effects of I&D system degradation on drinking water and housing, perceptions of poverty, and conclusion.