Cotton export substantially contributes to Uzbekistan’s economy. To produce cotton, the state imposes output targets on farmers which results in intensified cotton production practices, and consequently in land degradation. Improving degraded croplands via afforestation is an option explored through research experiments in the region, yet is currently not practiced by farmers. Using the example of the Amu Darya River lowlands of Uzbekistan, we analyze afforestation and its implementation constraints, by developing a coevolutionary socio-ecological systems framework that leans on evolutionary economics and evolutionary governance theories. Our study shows that farmers’ perceptions and rationalities, in close association with governance configurations of actors, institutions and knowledges, make them unreceptive towards afforestation. Altering relations between agricultural institutions and actors that are currently present in the cotton-centric configuration is difficult given the path-, inter- and goal dependencies. To change rural sustainable development paths, we conclude that the adoption of innovations requires a tailoring of knowledge and technology fitting local situation, as well as the reassembling of relations between actors, institutions and knowledge.

Djanibekov, U. , Van Assche, K., Boezeman, D., Villamor, G.B. & Djanibekov, N. (2018) A coevolutionary perspective on the adoption of sustainable land use practices: The case of afforestation on degraded croplands in Uzbekistan. Journal of Rural Studies 59: 1-9