What do you do when you are in danger of losing half of your land to an influential businessman? Gulbahor Rajabova, a farmer from Tajikistan, found herself in this precarious situation more than four years ago. She had to act fast to make sure she didn’t lose her land, and subsequently, her livelihood. Such scenarios are not uncommon in Tajikistan, a country where less than 7 percent of the land is arable, but more than 50 percent of the labor force is in agriculture. Systems of land control dating back to Soviet rule still place most of the power in the hands of the government, leaving farmers at the mercy of the government’s decisions, and often, unaware of their land rights.
Gulbahor’s predicament was all too common in Tajikistan, but her reaction was unique. She challenged the businessman and took him to court. The case ended up in the country’s Supreme Court, and, with the legal support of the USAID Tajikistan Land Reform Project, she won.
The Tajikistan Land Reform Project, a collaboration between Chemonics, USAID, government stakeholders, and civil society, worked with individual farmers to raise their awareness about their land rights and to help them understand the types of legal action they could take for their well-being. In addition to providing in-person training and legal support to farmers, the project used television, radio, and a monthly newsletter to engage with and teach them. Although the first phase of the project ended in 2013, the current Land Reform and Farm Restructuring Project continues to pursue these same goals.