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Institutional Design, Local Elite Resistance, and Inequality in Access to Land: Evidence from Cotton-Growing Areas of Tajikistan Open Access

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan, like other postcommunist states, embarked on agricultural land reform. The government, assisted by international organizations, implemented laws and created campaigns to break up Soviet-style collective farms and encourage independent farms. After over a decade, 66 percent of farmers in the country, including in cotton-growing areas, continue to work collectively, and 71 percent of arable land is held in collectives. I argue that the decentralized nature of the land redistribution program enabled the managers of former collective farms, re-labeled as “collective peasant farms,” to gain power so that they could use informal practices to resist peasant shareholders’ efforts to actualize their land rights. Theoretically, my argument reconciles competing perspectives about the reasons for limited land redistribution in the context of postsocialist transition. The study’s policy implication is that the government of Tajikistan, and foreign donors, instead of decentralizing the implementation of land reform, should take an active role in physically redistributing land among shareholders.

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