Introduction This chapter1 explores analytical linkages between the production of cotton, the use of water, the deterioration of soil and water resources, and rural poverty in Uzbekistan. These partial analyses are undertaken in order to better understand the overall cotton-environment-poverty nexus, which in the particular case of Uzbekistan represents a crucial set of complex linkages, in particular when rural poverty is being investigated. Such an analysis is undertaken in the context of the transformations that have taken place in the agricultural production system during the ‘transition period’ since 1991, when the country gained independence. The chapter proceeds as follows. In the second section, the cotton sector in Uzbekistan is briefly analysed, starting with the Soviet legacy of forced cultivation, the overall dependency of the Uzbek economy on cotton (providing hard currency, employment and industrial inputs), and the current reforms in the agricultural sector. The third section discusses the linkages between cotton-water, cotton-land, cottonpoverty, and also addresses whether the state-led introduction of massive wheat production during the 1990s, which aimed to bring about food self-sufficiency, has altered these linkages. Here the chapter also analyses whether the shift to wheat is ‘pro-poor’ and/or ‘pro-environment’, which it might seem at first sight, as it is a food staple and uses much less water than cotton does. The fourth concluding section will assess the linkages in conjuncture, in order to assess the cotton-environment-poverty nexus for Uzbekistan, taking into account different indicators, such as water use and efficiency, soil deterioration (e.g. salinity), fertilizer use, water quality and rural poverty. The conclusion will confirm that the poor in Uzbekistan are generally rural, living in those areas where cotton is produced, with high indices of soil deterioration, and environmental pollution negatively affecting their health. The shift towards more grain production has neither been pro-poor nor pro-environment. While cotton is still a very remunerative crop, its proceeds are not benefiting most of the rural poor in Uzbekistan, especially not the rural workers, known before as the kolkhozniki. Current changes in the agrarian sector, with the formation of medium-sized ‘private’ farmers (fermers), do not fundamentally change
this picture, in spite of noticeably less taxation and higher prices for cotton output during the past few years.