This publication is devoted to the pilot "School Food and Nutrition Program linked to the Agricultural Sector" that is currently implemented in the Republic of Tajikistan by the UN FAO, funded by the Russian Federation. The piloting is focused on the implementation of new school nutrition models, like growing vegetables in a greenhouse on the school premises and centralizing the supply of raw food.
The project's key purpose in Tajikistan is to boost the effectiveness and quality of the school nutrition program through the creation of school-based plots, produce from which will be used in the cafeteria in cooking tasty and nutritious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
In this book, we're providing you with an insight into how growing vegetables in a greenhouse can benefit schools, farmers, local communities, and, most importantly, children in Tajikistan.
Welcome to Tajikistan – a pearl in the very heart of Asia! As soon as you set your foot in Tajikistan, you'll find yourself in a land of stunning natural contrasts. 93% of the territory of this sunny region is taken up by highly picturesque mountain landscapes. For centuries, the shade of these mountains has nurtured the Tajik people, with their unique, distinctive culture and traditions.
Over half of the region's employable population is engaged in agriculture. The nation's agricultural sector accounts for a fourth of its GDP. Nearly 70% of the population resides in rural areas, where seasonal work in the fields is often the only source of income for households.
Trade & Services
Agriculture, hunting, forestry & fishing
Transport, communications and warehousing
Form of government
142 600 sq km
GDP per capita
Data on the results of 2017 of the Agency for Statistics under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan
Life expectancy at birth is 66 years
1 228 somoni
Average monthly nominal wage
The poverty level in 2017
of the population
Overview of Tajikistan, World Bank
The region's natural/climatic conditions are good for growing heat-loving vegetables and cucurbits, with some of its areas used for growing potatoes. The major vegetables grown in Tajikistan include tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and cabbage. On some of these crops, the nation reaps two to three harvests per year.
Volumes of Agricultural Production
Gross agricultural output (in prices of 2016)
Sown areas of agricultural crops
thousand sq km
Gross harvest of agricultural crops (ths tons)
Grains and Legumes
4 235 sq km
1 906 sq km
1 625 sq km
582 sq km
416 sq km
200 sq km
103,2 sq km
Grains and Legumes
Fruits and Berries
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the nation was faced with the pressing concern of food security, with the civil war only aggravating the situation.
Today, the government of Tajikistan, in concert with a group of international partners (including the FAO) is working to revitalize Tajik agriculture. Thanks to these measures, the nation has seen its output of fruits and berries double over the last 20 years. Most gardens over here feature peaches, apricots, apples, pears, plums, cherry, quince, grapes, pomegranates, figs, almonds, persimmon, pecans – and even lemon.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Riboflavin — for acute vision
Vitamin B6 — for good memory and normalization of metabolism
Phylloquinone — for the proper functioning of the kidneys, liver, gall bladder
Fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 — to protect the skin and joints
Harvest — August-October
Tannin — from inflammation and protection of the intestinal mucosa
Iodine, vitamin C and iron — from thyroid diseases, anemia and general exhaustion
Phosphorus, copper, cobalt — for brain nutrition
Magnesium salts — to protect the kidneys from hard water
Harvest — October-December
Fiber — for good digestion
Potassium, magnesium, iron — for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system
Zinc — for healthy nails and hair
Cobalt — for bone growth and cell renewal
Calcium and phosphorus — for strong teeth and bones
Harvest — May-November
Vitamins A, C, E, B — for strong immunity, stable body functioning
Potassium — for removing excess fluid and facilitating the work of the kidneys
Magnesium — to normalize the pressure
Ascorbic acid and vitamin E — for the elimination of toxins and the fight against viral infections
Harvest — April-June
Pectins — for better function of intestines
Choline — to lower cholesterol and liver health
Ascorbic acid — for appetite and body protection
Folic acid — to improve metabolism
Harvest — May-September
Water in which the dissolved mineral salts are contained
Potassium, silicon, sulfur, iodine, fructose and fiber — for digestion
Tartrate — for carbohydrate-fat metabolism
Harvest — May-September
High nutritional value (70-80 kcal / 100 g)
Minerals that have an alkaline effect, reducing the acidity of the stomach
A lot of fiber — for the work of the intestine
Potassium — for the heart and healthy gums
Selenium — for the thyroid gland and immune system
Harvest — August-October
Carotene — for growth and strengthening of bones, resistance to infections of the respiratory system
Pantothenic acid — for metabolic processes
Ascorbic acid with antioxidant action
Flavonoids — for the elasticity of blood vessels
Harvest — August-November
Health on a plate
Acute food shortages continue to remain a major concern in Tajikistan, and especially vulnerable to this are children. Based on the findings from a 2017 study, 41% of women aged 15–49 and 42% of children aged below 5 in Tajikistan suffer from anemia.
Insufficient and irrational diets in childhood may cause further lags in weight gain, bone growth, and physical and mental development. 14.8% of children in Tajikistan have insufficient body weight, with 2% classified as severely underweight. Researchers have warned that it may be impossible to remediate the consequences through enhancing a person's diet once they get past 13 years of age.
Children spend a major portion of their time at school. The school period overlaps with a time of intense growth processes taking place within a child's body, when any disruption in their diet may lead to serious malfunctions in the operation of all systems within the body. How can someone focus on their studies when their stomach is empty and there is not enough energy to focus on school work! Indeed, it is hardly possible to ensure proper nutrition for growing kids when there is a problem with providing them with hot school breakfast or lunch.
Supporting Access to Education for Vulnerable Children
students 1-4 grades
Assistance to the Government
Concept for National school feeding policy development
National School Feeding Development Strategy
Program of Pilot projects on school feeding development
Many schools in Tajikistan have plots, but most of these spaces are put to no use. By growing fruits and vegetables on those land plots, the schools could well enrich the kids' diets using fresh vegetables from a garden bed of their own. It is this idea that has formed the basis of a new pilot project from the FAO – 'School Food and Nutrition Programme Linked to the Agricultural Sector', focused on helping schools start their own greenhouse farm.
"School Food and Nutrition Program linked to the Agricultural Sector"
Number of schools
Number of greenhouses
Total production area
Drip irrigation system
Improving the nutritional value and diversity of the diet of schoolchildren
Creation of additional sources of funding for school feeding
The school-based greenhouses are helping diversify the menu at the school cafeteria at no additional cost. This means more fresh vegetables in dishes and on tables – and, consequently, more healthy and nutritious ingredients to ensure the proper development of children in Tajikistan.
To ensure that the kids are provided with vitamins from their native land virtually all year round – from early spring to December – the program has resulted in the construction of 22 greenhouses fitted out with a drop irrigation system on the grounds of 20 schools in Nurek, Vakhsh, and Dusti.
All of the schools have gotten a handle on the basics of growing vegetables in a greenhouse, and now know most of the tricks of the trade. By mastering new technological techniques for working the soil, the schools could become a practical base for programs for the training and advanced training of local farmers in the use of new technology. The coming together of schools and local farmers may, going forward, help establish a steady supply of local food products for the school cafeteria.
For the children of Nurek
Distance to Dushanbe
400 sq km
58 ths people
13,96 ths people
Primary school children
6,05 ths people
The town of Nurek is 64 kilometers away from the capital. Situated in the valley of the river Vakhsh, it is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges, which reach over a thousand and a half meters in height.
The town emerged in the 1960s in the place of a kishlak following the construction of the Nurek Hydroelectric Power Station, the largest in Asia. Next to the power station, there is a reservoir which provides the region with water for irrigating the cropland.
"Over 80% of the region's population is engaged in growing vegetables, grain crops, corn, as well as horticulture, stock farming, fish farming, and bee keeping. Our farmers produce flaxseed oil and sesame oil," says First Deputy Mayor of Nurek Dilshod Asozoda.
The town's leadership is currently spending over half of its budget on the development of education, and would welcome any financial contributions to support its efforts. The Deputy Mayor of Nurek regards the construction of greenhouses on the school premises to be beneficial both for improvement in the quality of student nutrition and from an economic perspective: "The law permits schools to not just use the harvests for the school dinners but sell surplus crops as well".
Sadbarg Yatimova, Principal of School No. 3 in Nurek, loves her job and is proud to be in charge of a school that can provide the kids with hot meals and freshly baked bread. Another bragging right for the principal is two greenhouses spanning a combined land area of 288 sq m. One grows cucumbers, and the other is used for growing tomatoes.
From the very beginning, it was decided to approach the matter in an intelligent manner, so an agronomist specialist was hired. The school is going to stock up on seeds from this year's harvest for future plantings. "From now on, our kids will be provided with fresh vegetables without any GMOs and additives".
The schoolchildren are learning the ropes of taking care of greenhouse plants in Handicraft class, but that's not all. The kids, also, enjoy helping adults at all the stages of the process – from planting to gathering the crop. "In my view, this helps them gain some practical experience in vegetable maintenance, which definitely will benefit them as they grow up, and may even become someone's future occupation, you never know", says the school principal.
For the children of Vakhsh
Distance to Dushanbe
965,1 sq km
194 ths people
41,54 ths people
Primary school children
14,08 ths people
Vakhsh District occupies a valley located in the center of Khatlon Region, which is surrounded by highlands. The area is home to a diverse multicultural spectrum of ethnicities, including Tajiks, Uzbeks, Tatars, Kazakhs, and Turkmens, who have lived here in harmony for centuries. Each ethnicity has brought a touch of its own culture to the area. Among the district's 64 schools, apart from Tajik, 22 also provide instruction in Uzbek, with 8 providing instruction in Uzbek only.
The overwhelming majority of residents in the district are engaged in agriculture, with onions, cabbage, beet, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, watermelon, melon, and uryuk (dried apricots) mainly cultivated here. Over 10 000 hectares is occupied by cotton and grain fields.
By tradition, the district's Uzbek-speaking population is focused on stock farming, providing the entire Khatlon Region with meat.
Today, an adult and a serious person, a father and an executive, Mr Abdullozoda has not forgotten the lessons he learnt in childhood. The official is convinced – schools in Vakhsh need land plots and greenhouses. "This will help provide the kids with healthy crops. On top that, it will help them gain some really invaluable knowledge, which will benefit them throughout life".
First Deputy Mayor of Vakhsh Region Saidbek Abdullozoda tells us about his childhood days and confesses that during the Soviet era very few schools had a cafeteria. He wistfully reminisces about his school years and about classes held in the open air. "I remember our school having a special plot of land on its grounds. In our Handicraft class, we would dig the soil, plant potatoes, pick weeds from the carrots …".
School No. 15 in Vakhsh is another participant in the FAO pilot. The institution has long been no stranger to farming. They've been growing potatoes, beans, bell peppers, onions, carrots, greens, and cabbage over here for six years now. In the garden, there are fruit trees, the fruits used to make kompot for the cafeteria.
School Principal Dzhonmukhammad Zainiddinov recalls that at first members of the school administration doubted the school's ability to maintain the greenhouse in a competent fashion. "Practice has proven we're hardly second to some sophisticated farmers out there. We'd love to have another greenhouse like that".
Handicraft class is a great source of farming experience for the kids. It enables them to be aware of the latest technologies in the field, like drip irrigation, for instance. Here the kids lend a hand with the growing and harvesting of greenhouse tomatoes, with this year's harvest expected to total around a ton. Whatever cannot be consumed fresh will be canned for the winter.
For the children of Dusti
Distance to Dushanbe
1 834,4 sq km
120,5 ths people
24,37 ths people
Primary school children
10,2 ths people
The land in Dusti is bountiful in gifts of nature, filled with an amazing palette of colors. It is home to Tigrovaya Balka ["tiger's hollow"], a well-known nature reserve which spans 50 hectares and features nearly all fruit-bearing trees.
The district's population, over 100 000 residents, is quite diverse too, with Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, and other ethnicities living and working side by side in harmony over here. The region's employable population grows cotton, pomegranates, carrots, melon, and watermelon, with a major portion of the harvest exported outside the area.
According to Head of the Department of Women's and Family Affairs in Dusti Rozigul Rustamova, most farmers are struggling with a lack of equipment for processing fruits and vegetables, which are abundant in the district: "Our schools, too, have lots of problems, and greenhouses could be a great aid in resolving them. Indeed, proceeds from the sale of surplus crops could well be directed toward the purchase of relevant equipment".
Abdumalik Makhmadshoev, Principal of School No. 1 in Dusti, is doing his best to resolve another issue: the school cafeteria is in need of major repairs. The greenhouse built by the FAO grows cucumbers. "If we have a nice harvest, we plan on selling surplus crops in the local market and spending the proceeds on the repairs and other needs of the cafeteria and the school as a whole".
The school farming pilot has been a subject of considerable interest among the schoolchildren's parents as well. Some of them are already planning on setting up the same kind of greenhouse on their plots. "The parents come over to the school, explore things, and take notes in their notebooks and smartphones. And that's a good thing to do for everybody, as it's a great additional source of income for households in a rural area".
A course for young farmers
Many of the children in Vakhsh, Dusti, and Nurek will follow in the footsteps of their parents, driven by a vocation for farming and agriculture. Practical knowledge they acquire in school will, definitely, help them in the future, but that's not the main point.
The bottom-line is that, once they grow up and sort out what they want to do with their life, each of those kids will keep in their heart the warm memories of their school farming activities, the time they spent with their friends, the scent of their native land, and the joy of getting their first harvest.
It's time to sow
The school greenhouses are producing the first fruits already. In the middle of May, they celebrated the launch of brand-new greenhouses with a big fete in School No. 15 in Mopr, a village in Vakhsh. The marvelously organized event marked a symbolic end to the preparation activities. It's now time to focus on the lesser part of the job – taking care of the plantings and gathering in the crops.
We hope that the example of the 20 schools with a newly built greenhouse will serve as an inspiration for children, farmers, parents, and principals of other institutions of learning and that these best practices will spread throughout the republic. After all, our common goal is a happy and healthy future for the children of Tajikistan!
Russian Federation Funding
This photo-project was prepared by the Social and Industrial Food Service Institute from Moscow (Russian Federation) during the implementation of the pilot «School food and nutrition program linked to the agricultural sector" in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The pilot is a part of the comprehensive project "Developing Capacity for Strengthening Food Security and Nutrition in Selected Countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia" that is funded by the Russian Federation and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The project seeks to promote cross-sectoral collaboration by providing adequate capacity to effectively pursue and manage coherence between agriculture, nutrition, health, education and social protection sectors. The cooperation comprises support to a wide array of development initiatives at regional and global level.