Ob Umed Fostering Traditional Knowledge on Water Sustainability

Ob Umed © Aiza Abdyrakhmanova

The Association of Water Users, also known as Ob Umed (literally  “water is hope”), a Tajik NGO, works toward increasing the environmental education of the population, emphasizing certain attitudes toward water based on folk traditions and ancestral knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe. To formally dedicate time to reflect on the importance of water and its survival today, Ob Umed organizes and celebrates holidays within the framework of a project called “Revival of Traditional Methods of Water Resources Management in Mountain Communities”.

On 13 May, one such holiday, the beginning of the irrigation season was organized in the town of Dzhiruddjara–Tishordara. Representatives of water users of all nine Jamoat villages, employees of relevant state structures, public organizations, and mass media were invited to the holiday.

Early in the morning, the final works (hashars) were carried out to repair canals and irrigation ditches, a process in which village water users took part. As noted at the beginning of the event, the holiday is part of the national traditions; it does not only mean the beginning of the irrigation season but also an event that unites all water users and directs them to mutual understanding, consensus, and joint solution of issues relating to water problems in the area.

During the ceremony, several water-related rituals were performed, including the pronunciation of prayers at the main sources, poetry reading, and other types of ancient traditional practices. Since the area is known for its water scarcity, these traditional practices are believed to be capable of encouraging residents to increase the volume of water in the sources and changing people’s attitude to water and its fair distribution. The event also provides the younger generation an example on how to respect water according to the teachings of tradition. A festive banquet followed and enriched the bond of the participants.