Land Lease Auctions Boost Local Government Transparency, Income in Tajikistan

When Tajikistan achieved independence in 1991, local governments managed up to 35 percent of agricultural land. Leasing state land was complicated, inefficient, and time-consuming. Farmers had unequal access to land and information — it was often unclear why some farmers received land but not others. As a result, leasing land failed to raise income for local governments.

Recognizing the importance of these lands in a small, mountainous country where agricultural land makes up only 7 percent of land area, the Feed the Future Tajikistan Land Market Development Activity (LMDA) supported local officials to improve land management of the Special Land Fund (SLF) and the Land Reserve Fund. LMDA supported land lease auctions, allowing the transferability of land-use rights in Jomi and Yovon districts. Auctions provide a transparent way to lease land and also raise local government income. Safar Rahimzoda, the first deputy chair of Jomi District, who helps manage the district’s infrastructure, collaborated with LMDA to auction land based on government priorities.

The first auction in Jomi, held in October 2019 in Yakkatut Jamoat, received 21 applications. Participants had equal access to bid on agricultural land from the SLF. The estimated minimum lease payment for one hectare of irrigated arable land was 1,110 TJS ($114) per hectare, with a maximum price of 1,600 TJS ($165). Winners secured their land-use rights by signing three-year leases with the local government.

Noting these “impressive results,” Mr. Rahimzoda approached the project about a second auction in December 2019. The open process sparked interest and increased applicants in the second auction by 85 percent. Mr. Rahimzoda noted that double the land was up for sale, and bidding was highly competitive — maximum prices jumped 54 percent!

Analysis revealed that demand for land is high, even for temporary use. Auctions strengthened local government, improved district revenue, and raised farmers’ incomes. The two auctions leased 51 hectares from the SLF and secured 189,948 TJS ($19,602) for three-year leases in Jomi. This will fund district improvements to land, roads, and infrastructure.