Image of a woman planting crops on farmland.

Accessing Her Rights .

Female farmers in Tajikistan are taking advantage of changes in the law to create their own private farms, with the support of Chemonics and USAID.

Sometimes, individuals have to advocate for themselves to gain access to their legal rights.

Bibirajab Boymakhmadova knows this first hand. Bibirajab is a female farmer in Tajikistan, and one of over 30 shareholders in a mid-sized farm called Khirobon. In Tajikistan, the government has passed a series of laws to restructure collective farms, allowing agricultural laborers withdraw and create their own private, individual farms. Yet it can be difficult for farmers to navigate this process in practice. Many shareholders do not understand the legal process for creating their own farms, and farm leaders can create barriers that make it difficult for shareholders to exercise their individual land rights.


Creating a private farm can be especially complicated for women. In Tajikistan, a series of factors including war, labor migration, and cultural norms have created an agricultural labor sector that is 80 percent female. Yet relatively few of these women hold leadership roles within the farming sector. Local authorities are not always supportive of women’s efforts to establish their own farms, and the head of the Khirobon farm made it difficult for Bibirajab to withdraw from being a shareholder and establish an individual farm.

“During the tour, I met with the women activists who run their own farms, which made me realize how important it is to know and use my land rights to be able to defend them."

Bibirajab Boymakhmadova, Tajik Farmer

The turning point came for Bibirajab when she participated in a USAID-funded study tour, organized by Chemonics’ Land Reform and Farm Restructuring Project. The tour, which took place in October 2014, sponsored 24 female farmers from Bibirajab’s impoverished Khatlon province to visit the Sughd region, where farm restructuring has been more successful. During the tour, the women visited a World Bank project to learn about the documentation process to create their own farms, and were introduced to new farming equipment. They also talked with local women about how to overcome barriers that many female farm owners face in Tajikistan, related to taxation, water supply, export production, and communicating with local authorities.

“During the tour, I met with the women activists who run their own farms, which made me realize how important it is to know and use my land rights to be able to defend them,” Bibirajab said.


female shareholders from Khirobon farm trained in land rights


new family and individual farms legalized

Once she returned from the study tour, Bibirajab shared her experiences with 36 other female shareholders from the same Khirobon farm. Using their new knowledge, the women went to the office of the USAID-supported project, where lawyers helped them complete necessary documents and file a court petition. On December 22, 2014, a regional court legalized 23 new family and individual farms.

Bibirajab continues to support other women in exercising their land rights, and has been chosen as a local activist within her village. Bibirajab’s success is both a step toward women’s equality, and also has the potential to increase food security. Farmers who manage their own farms are more likely to make long term investments in their plots, because they feel secure in their ownership of the land. This leads to increased agricultural productivity, which benefits the new female farm owners as well as Tajikistan’s food supply.