Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Q&A on Water Governance, Training and Gender in Agriculture: A New Evidence Base

On May 25, Agrilinks hosted researchers from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) for a seminar entitled “Water Governance, Training and Gender in Agriculture: A New Evidence Base.” This event showcased findings from Feed the Future’s recently completed impact evaluation that assessed the impact of Water Users Associations (WUAs) on water and land productivity, equity and food security in Tajikistan. Presenters fielded a wide array of questions during the event, which you can listen to or read in transcript form at the event page. Below, they respond to some of the many additional questions that came in during the event.

Training and Extension

Agrilinks audience: What are "informal agricultural extension services"  services provided by input dealers?

IWMI: Perhaps we need to rethink this phrase. We mean that while USAID organized demonstration plots and provided training to farmers in the use of improved inputs, farmer meetings were also organized, where farmers could learn from each other’s experiences.

Agrilinks audience: "Longer is better" isn't yet a very operational recommendation. Does the team's data allow doing a cost-benefit analysis, e.g. measurement of additional benefits from the costs of additional training length?

IWMI: The econometric results provide a measure of additional benefits from longer training; see this link for an explanation. In terms of costs, the World Bank’s Farm Privatization program spent 8.53 million dollars on training nine WUAs, with each WUA receiving 3-6 months of training. USAID spent seven million dollars on training 60 WUAs, with each WUA receiving 20-24 months of training. A simple calculation suggests that the average cost of training one WUA for the World Bank was 0.95 million dollars, and the average cost of training one WUA for USAID was 0.17 million dollars.

Water Resource Allocation:

Agrilinks audience: What kind of approaches and technologies need to be invested toward kitchen gardens (commonly run by women, as given in the presentation) for efficient use of water resources as well as cost-effectiveness? Somebody has raised already a question on fee regimes that are varied between the two categories of water users.

IWMI: Our work demonstrates that kitchen gardens are a very important source of food for the household. WUAs provide irrigation services only to dehkan farms, and how kitchen gardens receive water depends on the types of local arrangements that the mahalla committee and the WUAs in Tajikistan enter into. If the purpose of irrigation management is to improve food security, then thinking about coordinating water use between kitchen gardens and farms is going to be important, both for improving efficient water use and for improving cost-effectiveness.

Agrilinks audience: Are kitchen gardens irrigated from canals or from domestic drinking water sources? Can that be a reason for kitchen gardens being outside of the WUAs? What about Presidential land plots?  

IWMI: During Soviet times, spouts in villages provided water for domestic use and for irrigating kitchen gardens. After the collapse of the USSR, these spouts were not maintained, and this lead to their deterioration. Kitchen gardens now take water from the same canals that provide water to farms.

Presidential plots are usually allocated to poor farmers, and they are used for all types of small-scale cultivation, including vegetables and fruits.


Agrilinks audience: Is it true that there are still collective farms which just go by different names (associations, cooperative farms, etc.)?

IWMI: There are still some collectives, yes. These are mostly retained by the government. The vast majority of Soviet era collectives were “decollectivized” into smaller dehkan farms, the average size of which is between 3 to 5 hectares.

Agrilinks audience: Would there need to be any differences in the membership fees between kitchen gardens and private farms based on land area, water needs or income generation?

IWMI: Kitchen gardens are not legally entitled to be members of WUAs and hence pay no membership fees. Dehkan farms pay membership fees to WUAs, and these fees are set by the WUA. Both farms and gardens pay an irrigation fee. On the farm, irrigation fees are set by cotton/non-cotton and cropping area. Our understanding is that irrigation fees paid by kitchen gardens are lower (based on area cropped). Cotton is usually not cultivated in kitchen gardens. 

Market Systems, Value Chains & Crop Choices

Agrilinks audience: How are WUA farmers linked to the markets? Do you provide training in entrepreneurial skills? How high do your farmers go in the value chains? Do they sell to other provinces or even export to neighboring countries?

IWMI: Cotton is produced for sale, and both public and private Tajik companies purchase cotton mostly for exporting it. Wheat is cultivated for self-consumption. But Tajik wheat production is not sufficient to feed the population, so Tajikistan imports wheat from Russia and Kazakhstan. Both cotton and wheat are cultivated on farms. High value crop production can take place in kitchen gardens and farms. When cultivated in kitchen gardens, it is mostly for self-consumption. When cultivated on farms, a significant share is sold for cash. Cotton markets are well developed, in part due to the history of Tajikistan. Input and output markets for fruits and vegetables are less developed, with limited supply of improved seeds and inputs. Storage, marketing, processing and packaging facilities are also poorly developed. Getting perishable produce to market is often a challenge, and there is a lot of fluctuation in the prices of fruits and vegetables.

Agrilinks audience: Was the training in any way linked to efforts to strengthen specific value chains via promotion of improved practices and broader participation in those value chains?

IWMI: USAID WUAs were provided trainings in water governance and in agricultural extension. Water governance trainings were about how to collectively manage, organize and coordinate members and infrastructure to deliver irrigation services. Agricultural extension trainings involved demonstration plots, dissemination of information on using better inputs and outputs and cultivating alternative crops. USAID coordinated the water and extension interventions, which is a departure from standard rural development programs.

Agrilinks audience: What is the effect of distance from the market on the crop choice?

IWMI: As expected, distance from the market (in our case measured as the distance from the main road) has a negative impact on the likelihood to cultivate perishable crops, especially vegetables. This issue is reinforced by the absence of cold storage facilities.

Agrilinks audience: How is diversification of crops supported by WUA and the extension services  provided to diversify crops?

IWMI: USAID WUAs were provided information on alternative cropping choices using demonstration plots and by ag extension workers sharing information on improved inputs and post-harvest drying and storing for perishables.

Agrilinks audience: Do farmers who grow more cotton as opposed to food crops continue to get preferential treatment in terms of water access?

IWMI: This is a good question and a bit difficult to answer. Cotton is currency in Tajikistan, and farmers cultivate cotton for cash. Cotton is also not perishable, so it makes for an attractive crop in a country where storage, processing and packaging are nascent. Cotton is an important export crop, and its input and output markets are well established. At the same time, the government has relaxed the cotton policy, and its cultivation is no longer mandatory. So, mixed strategies for cultivation have evolved over the longer summer.

Agrilinks audience: Cotton is a water intensive crop. How does this affect the WUAs if cotton is still the number one crop?

IWMI: Your question was one of our questions of interest. By improving the quantity and timing of delivered water and its governance, WUAs could in theory support cotton cultivation. Between 2014 and 2016, the share of farmers cultivating cotton decreased, and the areas cultivated on the farm have also decreased, but the yield has remained the same, indicating some changes in agricultural productivity.


Agrilinks audience: I am wondering about the definition of "operation," in the sense of women operating farms. In Africa it's very common that women will be working the farms even if by law the land title is in a man's name. So I would say that women are operating the farms in most cases.

IWMI: In Tajikistan, women have historically worked in kitchen gardens, and their involvement in cultivating collective farms was restricted to weeding and harvesting cotton. When collectives were decollectivized, women continued weeding and harvesting. Due to migration, women are now responsible for other labor intensive tasks such as irrigation and sowing, which men were traditionally responsible for. Migration also makes women step, albeit modestly, into managerial roles. See this Agrilinks post for more details.

Agrilinks audience: Has the impact of male migration perhaps been as a focus of a separate study and/or project? It sounds like migration may have major impacts on value chain participation (cotton) and more generally on household enterprise mix, favoring greater diversification and focus on resilience.

IWMI: Yes, this study looks at some of those aspects. With migration, we have seen dehkan farms discontinuing cotton cultivation, and women focusing cultivation on kitchen gardens. We are writing a blog post on this, which will appear on the Agrilinks website.

Agrilinks audience: Why are diffusion networks not sufficient to reach female farmers?

IWMI: Men don’t seem to share details on technical tasks with women, in part because historically, women have not performed technical tasks. See this Agrilinks post for details.

Agrilinks audience: Did you find differences in land allocation to different crops between women and men in the WUA?

IWMI: Yes, women leading dehkan farms tend to have more diversified cropping choices even if cotton and wheat are still the two main crops.


Agrilinks audience: Are all these association analyses adjusted for socio-economic confounders?

IWMI: Yes, they are. In fact some of the results in the study are causal estimates. Whether correlations or causations, we control for observable and unobservable confounders, time varying and time invariant confounders, in part through study design, in part through panel data, and in part through creating modified baselines.