Planting dreams in rural Tajikistan
Find out how the World food Programme school meals is changing the school experience of students in the Rasht Valley.
Rasht is one of 52 districts in the country where WFP provides school meals as part of its School Meals Programme that provides a hot nutritious lunch for 400,000 primary schoolchildren in over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan — almost half of the county’s schools. The meals consist of bread made of wheat flour enriched with minerals and multi vitamins as well as soup and vegetables.
Today, some schools in the Rasht valley have fruit gardens thanks to a three-year tree planting project that was completed three years ago. WFP started the project back in 2012 using funds from the Japan Association for WFP (JAWFP). The fruit trees’ yield complements the children’s school meals and — depending on the school’s priority — could be sold and profit used for buying school stationery, books or any other needs.
WFP works with the local government to ensure that gardeners know how best to take care of the trees. Schoolchildren are also engaged in the day-to-day care of the gardens in their schools.
Little humans also grow in school gardens
The school’s tree garden, as well as providing children with fresh produce, teach children about the ways trees can contribute to land conservation and to protecting the nature and surroundings. They also learn how they can be helpful to others.
“I have been in charge of this plot for two years now and I am proud that my small contribution brings a positive impact on the lives of our primary schoolmates and our school in general,” said Paymonai Nurmuhammad, a secondary school student at School №12 in Rasht. “Because of these trees, our little sisters and brothers can have fresh and dry fruits for their lunch and I’m glad I can help with that.”
The older children also take part in collecting the harvest, as shown in this drawing by Ominai Asliddin, a 9th grader of School №61 of Rasht district benefiting from the project. It is also a chance for them to learn more about healthy foods and good eating habits, food storage and food processing.
“Each summer together with my classmates we collect apples, apricots, peaches and other fruits to store them in the school’s storage rooms for further processing into jams, compotes or dried fruits,” said Ominai.
School Orchards, a community affair
School meals programme has been made possible with critical contributions from the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) and schools. PTA contributes complementary food stuff like vegetables, while schools provide cooking facilities and fuel.
“We are grateful for WFP and its donors for providing the food assistance to our children. I have personally noticed that my grandchildren concentrate more on studies thanks to the hot and nutritious lunches that they have on daily basis,” said Safiev Shirinkhuja, a grandfather of two schoolchildren who are benefitting from the School Meal Programme in Rasht district.
The diets of more than 40,000 schoolchildren have been improved thanks to the fruit harvests complementing the school meals. In 2017, WFP Tajikistan received a new contribution $US270,000 from the JAWFP to further expand the project at 80 schools in Sughd and Khatlon regions.
In a recent visit, a WFP team observed JAWFP-funded project sites in Rasht to see the results of the Tree Planting project that was successfully completed in 2015.