Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Community and Regional Planning


Community and Regional Planning


Community and Regional Planning; Sustainable Agriculture

First Advisor

Francis Owusu


Participatory processes have been widely promoted within the field of natural resource management as a method to support efficient resource use. As women are often key stakeholders in natural resource use, the importance of their inclusion in these initiatives has also been stressed. Specifically, research has shown that women’s participation positively impacts outcomes of development initiatives and can transform gendered hierarchies by empowering women in community decision making. However, participatory initiatives are not necessarily inclusive; rather, it has been shown that these processes can exacerbate existing inequalities and specifically, that women can be excluded from participation.

In Kyrgyzstan, participation in irrigation management is organized through Water User Associations (WUAs), or groups of water users responsible for the allocation, scheduling, and delivery of irrigation water. Women make up a small percentage of the members and leaders in these WUAs; however, they are active in agriculture within Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, as irrigation water is vital to livelihoods in agricultural communities, it is important to examine the nature of women’s participation in WUAs.

This study draws upon interviews with WUA officials, village leaders, and female farmers in five communities in southern Kyrgyzstan to explore women’s access to information and participation in WUAs. Based on the analysis, this study reveals that in addition to gender, personal characteristics such as class and age, as well as geographical location can limit women’s access to information and exclude them from membership and leadership. However, women are also strategic in how they choose to participate. These findings suggest the need to reassess the participatory process in WUAs in order to increase inclusion and demonstrates gendered participation in natural resource management.



Copyright Owner

Rebecca E. Nixon



File Format


File Size

149 pages