Aksana Zakirova M.Sc.

External PhD Student
Human Geography and Transition Research
Phone: +49 152 0720 1228
Address: Alter Postweg 118, 86159 Augsburg

PhD Project

The social and economic implications of environmental changes: Challenges and future prospects for the farmers in Khatlon region, Tajikistan


Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the agriculture sector of Tajikistan has struggled with the post-Soviet transition from a planned to a market economy, exacerbated by the civil war of 1992-1997. The newly established Tajikistan had to develop the agricultural sector on its own while gradually stepping aside from the cotton monoculture practices established during the Soviet era. However, the long history of extensive cotton cultivation in Central Asia during the Soviet era had resulted in a number of negative environmental changes, which remain evident today.

The legacy of the Soviet agricultural policies, many of which remain prevalent across Central Asian countries prioritized intensive production. While the Soviet production policies adopted across Central Asia were designed to maximise agricultural productivity, little regard was given to the sector’s long-term environmental sustainability. In many cases, such policies have resulted in serious land degradation, which continues despite post-independence land reforms that were designed to improve land management.

One of the objectives of my doctoral research is to conceptualise the environmental changes that have occurred in Tajikistan’s post-Soviet agricultural sector within conceptual framework path dependency. The research aims to provide a better understanding of the historical constraints in the current development of Tajikistan’s agriculture and examine whether the current farming practices perpetuate the Soviet practices and policies. For this, an extensive field research will be conducted in the Khatlon region, one of the largest cotton producing regions in Tajikistan.

Zweynert and Goldschmidt (2005) in defining the path dependence concept highlight the significance of historical and social contexts in policy-making and socio-economic development. While the post-Soviet institutional changes have broadly been viewed with respect to the agrarian practices of water and land allocation, the role of path dependence in decision-making processes and policies in historical and contemporary cotton sector development under the changing environmental conditions still remains an untapped research area within the context of rural Tajikistan.

 Research interests

  • Central Asia
  • Soviet legacy
  • Political ecology
  • Path dependencies
  • Environmental changes in agriculture
  • Sustainable agriculture


Work experience

  • Since 2019: Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany
    Junior Researcher, TRANSECT project
  • 2018-2019: World Bank in the Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek
  • 2017-2018: FAO UN in the Kyrgyz Republic, Karakol 
    Community Development Specialist
  • 2011-2014: FAO UN in the Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek
    Communication Facilitator/Project Assistant


  • 2014-2017: M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics, Hohenheim University, Stuttgart, Germany  
  • 2011-2014: B.Sc. in Economics, Osh State University, Kyrgyzstan
  • 2005-2011: Diploma in Linguistics and Professional Translation, Nizhny Novgorod State Linguistics University, Russia