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Gender and Land Rights Database

Turkmenistan

In 2014, the population was estimated to be 5.3 million, of which 50.8 percent were female and 49.2 percent were male. Of that total population, 2,670,144 people were living in rural areas and 2,637,027 were in urban areas (1). In the same year, population density was 11 people per square kilometre overall, but varied greatly between desert areas and areas where water was available. In the early post-Soviet years, from 1991–1995, the country experienced a strong rate of immigration as ethnic Turkmens returned to their homeland, but by 2006 the net migration rate was –0.75 per 1 000 people (2). More than 40 nationalities live in the country. In 2004, Turkmen people accounted for 94.7 percent of the population, Uzbeks for 2.0 percent, Russians for 1.8 percent and other people – Kazakhs, Azerbaijani, Armenians, Ukrainians, Tartars, Beluji and others – for 1.5 percent (3). In 2013, 2 305 000 people were economically active (2); of that number, 68 percent of total male population and 42 percent of total female population (1).

In the early 2000s, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose annually. At current prices, the estimated GDP grew from US$3.2 billion in 2001 to US$47.9 billion in 2014, or US$1,099 per capita (1). In 2012, the industrial sector, mainly centred on the country’s oil and gas deposits, contributed 48.4 percent of GDP, while services contributed 37 percent and agriculture 14.5 percent (1). The private sector’s share of GDP was estimated at 25 percent (2). The country covers an area of 488 100 square kilometres, almost all of which is land surface. The land is mostly desert, with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and sizeable gas and oil resources. In 2012, 4.1 percent of the land was classified as arable (1) and less than 0.2 percent was planted to permanent crops. About 17 500 square kilometres are irrigated, mainly for cotton production (2). The country was formerly the world’s tenth-largest cotton producer; however, poor harvests in recent years have led to an almost 50 percent decline in cotton exports. Total exports rose by an average of roughly 15 percent per year from 2003–2008, largely because of higher international oil and gas prices (4).

In 2013, with a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.698, the country ranked 103rd out of 187 countries measured (3). In 1998, 24.8 percent of the population lived on less than US$1 a day (6). In 2013, life expectancy at birth was 68 years for women and 60 years for men (4). Education is free and generally accessible: in 2012, the literacy rate was 100 percent for women and 100 percent for men (1).

Women, especially in rural areas, manage households and raise children. High birth rates place a heavy burden on women and reduce per capita incomes, especially in rural areas. Women face the challenge of combining family and non-family roles because they perform both housekeeping and economic functions. The main areas of employment for rural women are farmer associations, farms and the informal sector. In 2014, agriculture employed 735 000 people, of which 393 000 were women (5).
Women accounted for 64 percent of home farm workers and almost 71 percent of household workers. Widespread home farming and leasing of agricultural land result in the use of women and children as unpaid labour (8).

All collective and state farms in the country have been abolished since mid-1995. Agrarian reform has been oriented to transferring land to private use and long-term leases and expanding the area of personal plots. Single-person farms and daikhan – peasant – associations of several households have become widespread (3). The main change was a shift from collective farming to more individualized agriculture. The first step, from 1990–1992, involved distributing irrigated land to rural families; this more than doubled the size of the household-plot sector to 133 000 hectares. The second step, from 1993 to 1996, involved a national programme to allocate land to independent private farmers who were allowed to engage in commercial agriculture outside of collectivist frameworks. Today, there are more than 5 000 such private farms operating on 81 000 hectares. The third, and perhaps the most radical, step, taken in 1996–1997, involved transforming former collective and state farms into associations of leaseholders. So-called peasant associations were organized by presidential decree in place of the traditional collective and state farms and each association was instructed to parcel out its large fields to individual leaseholders – typically heads of families (9). In 2002, 586 peasant associations were engaged in agricultural production, along with 1 815 private farms, more than 600 000 family-owned personal plots, and more than 7 000 private consumer goods producers. In the same year, 80 percent of all of the arable land was given in rents. The GDP for agriculture in 2002 rose by 15.5 percent over the previous year. In 2003, the volume of agricultural production increased by 18.5 percent over the year before (3).

Official statistics about the percentage of land allotted to women are not available. Patriarchal tradition has left a legacy of discrimination in regard to land rights and there is no evidence to suggest that women’s access to land has improved. Although men and women have equal legal rights in regard to accessing property other than land, patriarchal traditions that favour men prevail (10).

 

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography