Agricultural Knowledge and Knowledge Systems in Post-Soviet Societies

by Anna-Katharina Hornidge (Volume editor) Anastasiya Shtaltovna (Volume editor) Conrad Schetter (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 400 Pages


This volume addresses the crucial role of knowledge and innovation in coping with and adapting to socio-economic and political transformation processes in post-Soviet societies. Unique are the bottom up or micro-sociological and ethnographic perspectives offered by the book on the processes of post-Soviet transformations in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus. Three thematic fields form the structuring frame: cultures of knowledge production and sharing in agriculture; local governance arrangements and knowledge production; and finally, the present situation of agricultural advisory services development.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures and Tables
  • Preface
  • Introduction: Independence, Transformation and the Search for a Future in Agriculture
  • Part I: Epistemic Cultures in Post-Soviet Agriculture
  • Epistemic Cultures in Transition: Agricultural Expertise Development in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia
  • Foot Soldiers of Development? The Role of Kyrgyzstani Treneri in Agricultural Knowledge Transfer
  • Which Knowledge, Which Agriculture? Local Farmers and Agricultural Development in Georgia
  • Knowledge for Sustainability – Cultural Capital of Ethnic Minorities in High Mountain Areas of the South Caucasus
  • Part II: Agricultural Advisory Services Development
  • Competition Within the State, With the State and Beyond the State: Agricultural Extension in Tajikistan and the Struggles of Market Formation
  • Creating Business Mentalities: Knowledge and Rural Development in Georgia from a Discursive Perspective
  • More Foreign than Other Foreigners: On Discourse and Adoption – The Contradiction of Astonishment and Fear for Chinese Farm Practices in Tajikistan
  • Local Knowledge and Expert Knowledge in Rural Transition: Georgian Wine Production
  • Agricultural Organization and the Role of Contractual Structures in Knowledge Flows in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan
  • Part III: Local Governance Arrangements and Knowledge Production
  • Scientific Knowledge of Dryland Pastoral System Development in Uzbekistan
  • Constraints and Concerns for Farming and Cropping Types and Strategies in Southern Tajikistan
  • Investments in Agriculture in Northern Tajikistan: Considering the Dehqon Farm
  • “There is a New Law?” Experiences from the Implementation of a Pasture Governance Reform in Kyrgyzstan
  • Afterword: Expertise and Rural Development after the Soviets
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series index

← 6 | 7 →

Figures and Tables


Filippo de Danieli and Anastasiya Shtaltovna – Competition Within the State, With the State and Beyond the State

Table 1:Features of five Tajik extension service providers (NGOs)
Table 2:Qualitative analysis of NGOs work

Makhmud Shaumarov and Regine Birner – Scientific Knowledge of Dryland Pastoral System Development in Uzbekistan

Table 1:Seasonal norms of watering intervals and grazing distance from water points
Table 2:Seasonal pasture rotation schemes based on soil and biomass features
Table 3:Dynamics of livestock production in Soviet Uzbekistan
Table 4:State procurement of livestock produce from Uzbek farms
Table 5:Institutions and services established for pastoral system development in the FSU

Hafiz Boboyorov – Constraints and Concerns for Farming and Cropping

Table 1:Proportion of land used for different crops in Shahritus district
Table 2:Land resources of the collective farm in Sayyod Jamoat
Table 3:Basic, additional and obligatory plans

Andreas Mandler – Investments in Agriculture in Northern Tajikistan

Table 1:The situation between 2011 and mid-2013

Wibke Crewett – Implementation of a Pasture Governance Reform in Kyrgyzstan

Table 1:Case study characteristics ← 7 | 8 →
Table 2:Respondents in study municipalities who held formal office
Table 3:Respondents in study municipalities without formal office
Table 4:Community-level information dissemination tasks prescribed by implementation plan


Lena Fey – Local Farmers and Agricultural Development in Georgia

Figure 1:Model of a local knowledge system
Figure 2:The local agricultural knowledge system
Figure 3:Overview of Gori district, showing the research sites and the main water resources and roads

Kristof Van Assche, Anastasiya Shtaltovna and Anna-Katharina Hornidge – Local Knowledge and Expert Knowledge in Rural Transition

Figure 1:Combining local and traditional knowledge in Soviet wine making in Georgia
Figure 2:Storing wine in the ground
Figure 3:Storing wine in the ground

Nodir Djanibekov – Agricultural Organization and the Role of Contractual Structures

Figure 1:Interactions within the epistemic landscape
Figure 2:Networks surrounding farm organization

Makhmud Shaumarov and Regine Birner – Scientific Knowledge of Dryland Pastoral System Development in Uzbekistan

Figure 1:Comparing pastoral system changes before and during transition period
Figure 2:Political reforms and land reforms

Andreas Mandler – Investments in Agriculture in Northern Tajikistan

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Knowledge was a highly sensitive and tightly controlled topic back in the times of the Soviet Union. Particularly in the agricultural sector, the production, sharing and diffusion of knowledge were coupled with the state’s aim to gain control over large parts of its territory and the rural population. Authoritative decision-making structures as well as a command economy were decisive for agricultural production for more than seven decades. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and with the emergence of the successor states, it has been an open question in which directions these rather rigid knowledge systems are transforming. This is particularly true for the succeeding states of Central Asia and the Caucasus, where we can find various pre-Soviet traditions of understanding and governing knowledge.

Exactly this was our key research interest over more than ten years ago. Since then the three of us worked at the Center for Development Research (Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung; ZEF) at the University Bonn in several research projects on Post-Soviet countries. Therefore the aim of this edited volume is to bring together certain thematic strands and regional examples, which we found illustrating for different pathways of defining and dealing with knowledge in the Post-Soviet era.

Our first encounter with the knowledge systems in the Post-Soviet world took place as part of a project entitled ‘Restructuring Land and Water Use in Khorezm Province, Uzbekistan’, financed by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and implemented by the Center for Development Research, University of Bonn in close collaboration with Urgench State University as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Uzebkistan from 2001 to 2011. While here the focus lay on the interdisciplinary assessment of land and water governance, the project offered the institutional frame for additional, local-level social science research on topics of the social construction of everyday reality, discourse-driven formulations of ‘better futures’ and thus local definitions of what is regarded as knowledge, as worth knowing, as worth preserving and legitimate to be taught to others. The research suggested to regard knowledge as one of the most valued, controlled, and contested of all goods in rural, post-Soviet societies – a good determining ← 9 | 10 → access to all other resources required for everyday livelihood provision. However research also indicated that the strategies and practices of governing different stocks of knowledge highly vary on national and local levels and in different social spaces. We thus decided to focus our research in the past five years on the interface of different types of knowledge and their embedding in different governance systems. While the BMBF-financed project ‘Epistemic Cultures and Innovation Diffusion in post-soviet Southern Caucasus and Central Asia. Agricultural Knowledge Systems in Georgia and Tajikistan‘ assessed cultures of knowledge production and sharing, the project ‚ Conversion of Knowledge in Post-Soviet Agriculture’, financed by the Volkswagen Foundation focused on the systems of knowledge governance responsible for the nurturing of some and the neglecting of other types of knowledge.

Our research activities rested on the continuous and intensive interaction with researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from the regions we worked in. Over the years series of workshops took place in locations such as Dushanbe, Sharituz in Southern Tajikistan, Tibilisi, Urgench, Bonn and Bremen. Also we conducted joint field research and wrote co-authored publications with our local research partners. Out of all these research activities a lively interdisciplinary and international network of researchers emerged. Therefore this edited volume not only documents the academic findings of our long time engagement with the theme of different knowledges in Post-Soviet countries, but it also expresses the intensive and trustful relationship, cooperation as well as the academic friendship with many researchers in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which emerged over the last years.

Finally, our deep thanks go to the Volkswagen Foundation and the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry for Education and Research) of Germany. Only their generous and long-standing financial support and commitment made our research possible. The publishing of this book was further supported by the Interdisciplinary Institute of Central and Eastern Europe and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. We here want to explicitly thank our colleague Prof. Dr. Nicolas Hayoz for his interest and support of our work. Finally, we would like to thank the Peter Lang Publishing House, particular Adrian Stähli and Friederike Meisner, who took care of this book project in a very professional and helpful way.

Anna-Katharina Hornidge, Anastasiya Shtaltovna and Conrad Schetter

Bremen, Montreal, and Bonn, in November 2015

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Anna-Katharina Hornidge, Anastasiya Shtaltovna and Conrad Schetter

Independence, Transformation and the Search for a Future in Agriculture

Agricultural Knowledge and Knowledge Systems

Since independence in the early 1990s, the newly formed states of post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus have taken different paths to reform their agricultural sectors – by placing emphasis on the cotton sector for export and wheat production to improve food security like Uzbekistan, by reviving former areas of specialization like wine production in Georgia or walnut production in Kyrgyzstan, or by reorganizing pastoral land use and livestock production in northern Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Summary of Challenges

Despite differences in the patterns of transition and restructuring in each country, all countries in post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus face substantial challenges with regard to agricultural production (Shtaltovna and Hornidge, 2014):

  • outdated expertise, including “brain-drains” abroad;
  • worn out technical infrastructure, including irrigation and drainage systems;
  • degrading quality of lands;
  • price and quality competitiveness;
  • lack of crop diversification;
  • poor marketing and packaging of agricultural products;
  • low quality of products;
  • bureaucracy and corruption in state institutions;
  • limited institutional capacity in agricultural sciences;
  • outdated agricultural machinery;
  • underdeveloped skills in private decision making on the farm level (due to the intrusive administrative-command system).
← 11 | 12 →

A gradual and controlled privatization of land took place in all post-Soviet states, leading to the replacement of the kolkhoz-sovkhoz structure. This resulted in a myriad of successor organizations and several types of farms and farmers.1

In Uzbekistan, for example, the large-scale collective farms (kolkhozes and sovkhozes) were succinctly subdivided into joint stock companies (shirkats) between 1991 and 1998. Between 1998 and 2003, these were then divided further into small, individual and family farms with a semiprivatized status under a continuing to exist state plan on cotton and wheat production (a production quota system with compulsory sale to the state at fixed prices) (Veldwisch, 2007; Trevisani, 2008; Hornidge et al., 2011a, 2013; Shtaltovna et al., 2014). Within several years, the sheer number of individual farmers multiplied, all with their own responsibility to fulfil state production quotas, their own interest in producing commercially attractive crops for private income generation and their requirements for water arriving through a state managed irrigation system.

The process of decollectivizing the land crucially modified interhuman relationships within the agricultural sector, as well as between agricultural producers, water management and other state organizations and private investors. As such it increasingly challenged the attached systems of land, water and market governance, while not keeping up with the changes in the production system itself. In reaction to these overburdening challenges, farm land under the cotton and wheat state plan was reconsolidated again, merging several individual farms enterprises (of 10–25 ha each) into bigger farms (of 75–150 ha) in 2008 and once more in 2009, resulting in farms of 180–230 ha (Djanibekov et al., 2012; Eichholz et al., 2012).

Similarly, agriculture played an important role in the Georgian economy, for many years representing the single most important sector in terms of its contribution to GDP and employment (Sommerville et al., 2011). In 2015 – and due to a lack of investments since 1995 – it accounted for 9% of the GDP, ensuring 20–30% of the countries’ food demand (before 1990 70%) (<http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.AGR.TOTL.ZS/countries>, accessed 30 May 2015). Fifty-three per cent of the country’s total population live in rural areas and of small, privatized farms with a mean land size of ← 12 | 13 → 0.95 ha (Shatberashvili, 2011). Consequently, the land is very fragmented with a preponderance of smallholders (Sommerville et al., 2011). In an interview with Anastasiya Shtaltovna, the director of the formerly well known Soviet Scientific Federation (May 2013) confirms this by stating: “The agricultural sector has become synonymous with poverty or employer of last resort.” Similar developments can be found in the agricultural restructuring processes in former eastern Germany, Romania, Kazakhstan and Russia, where small-sized farms have proven inappropriate and instead bigger agribusinesses, almost replicating socialist cooperatives, are taking over and successfully compete in world agricultural markets (Burawoy and Verdery, 1999; Kazbek, 2009; Singelmann, 2011; Szelenyi, 2011).

In summary, the agricultural sector continues to be of central importance for securing individual livelihoods in Central Asia, just as much as in the Caucasus, employing about half of the region’s workforce. A high percentage of the population lives in rural areas. Total revenues from agriculture in the region constitute between a quarter and a third of annual national GDP. However, the development of the agrarian sector is very heterogeneous. Despite constant economic growth of the sector, overall production of staple crops is often not sufficient to satisfy national needs with high poverty levels, especially in the rural areas. Despite rapidly ongoing socio-economic processes of transformation, agriculture appears in many ways half-way between collective production Soviet style and new forms of individual farming.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (March)
innovations extension agricultural advisory services local governnace rural development post-Soviet countries Central Asia Caucasus Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Georgia agricultural politics Uzbekistan knowledge
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 400 pp.

Biographical notes

Anna-Katharina Hornidge (Volume editor) Anastasiya Shtaltovna (Volume editor) Conrad Schetter (Volume editor)

Anna-Katharina Hornidge is Professor of Social Sciences and Head of the Research Group ‘Development and Knowledge Sociology’ at the Leibniz-Center for Tropical Marine Ecology and the University of Bremen. She specializes on environmental epistemologies, cultures of knowledge production and sharing, as well as development-oriented innovation creation and diffusion processes in Central and Southeast Asia. Anastasiya Shtaltovna is Visiting scholar at Center for International Studies (CÉRIUM), University of Montreal & Associate Researcher at Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany. Her work and research interests lie in post-socialist transformations, knowledge and innovation, rural development, and comparative studies. Dr. Shtaltovna has conducted an extended fieldwork in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Conrad Schetter is Professor for Conflict and Peace Studies at the University of Bonn and Director for Research at the Bonn International Center for Conversion. He carried out several research projects in Central Asia and South Asia during the last decade. His specific interest lies in local politics and local governance as well as in conflicts about natural resources.


Title: Agricultural Knowledge and Knowledge Systems in Post-Soviet Societies