Green farming for recovery and the future

April 20, 2022

Khusanboy Boiboev prepares the plants in his greenhouse. Photos: UNDP Uzbekistan / Elyor Nemat

Khusanboy Boiboev, a young man from a remote mountain village in Uzbekistan, breeds seedlings of fruit trees and fruit-bearing shrubs. When a fellow villager advised him to take a loan for buying a chainsaw, assuming he would need it to cut the trees and sell for firewood, Khusanboy stood firm. "I only want to plant trees,” he said. “I never want to cut them down."

Khusanboy is part of a movement to bring green recovery to this Namangan region. He breeds seedlings of rose hips, cherries and apple trees, and knows the health benefits of, and how to collect, store and sell these fruits.

The rosehip bushes grow between fruit trees, along paths in the garden and next to his house. In a small garden, he also grows zucchinis, not common in the village. He is convinced from his personal experience that zucchini grows quickly, consumes less water for irrigation compared to other cucurbits crops, such as cucumbers, for example, and at the same time, even overripe ones do not go to waste - they can be used as cheap and nutritious livestock feed.

To help with breeding seedlings, Khusanboy now has a greenhouse with drip irrigation system and air heating system powered by solar energy. Greenhouses are a basic agricultural invention with huge amounts of potential – enclosed areas that satisfy unique conditions to guarantee that plants grow and flourish despite the season and severe temperatures and ecological conditions that are too hostile to them. While their growing potential can decrease in winter seasons with insufficient sunshine, technological advances have made it possible to harness the power of natural resources even in less-then-ideal conditions. For example, Khusanboy’s greenhouse is heated by means of electrical equipment powered by solar energy.

“Now with such a greenhouse,” he says enthusiastically, “I will be able to breed rose hips in enough quantities to supply my fellow villagers with seedlings. I have already explained to them that Rose hips are a useful plant, they contain a lot of vitamin C. You can stock them for your family, and sell them to wholesale brokers.”

The greenhouse, possible with support from UNDP’s “Towards Green Recovery in Uzbekistan” project, will become an experimental sample site for other residents - and will hopefully encourage people to engage in greenhouse farming using alternative energy sources. After all, the cost of electricity is increasing every year, and the transition to the use of solar panels, as well as the benefits of using greenhouses and hotbeds, is becoming an urgent need. Solar batteries provide autonomy, stable heating and uninterrupted supply of electricity to the farm.

This is one of the five project activities implemented in Namangan region, include the use of new technologies, environment-friendly garden irrigation systems and alternative energy sources such as solar panels. Another nine pilot activities are being held in the region of Karakalpakstan, in the Aral Sea region.

The Igilikovs have already been using biothermal hotbeds and greenhouses for five years in their village of Takhtakupir. A family of active self-taught agronomists, they’ve already managed to achieve success in year-round vegetable cultivation and have been awarded for their achievements. Biyshegul Igilikova proudly shows photos of a tall tomato tree grown by her son Kalmurat and talks about his numerous experiments in breeding seedlings using biohumus. A financier by education, Kalmurat’s passion belongs to the field of agriculture, thanks to the example of his mother.

Plants grown in Karakalpakstan. Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan / Arslan Kannazarov

At first, the family experimented with biothermal hotbeds, then built a large greenhouse, where they continued experimenting growing vegetables and herbs without traditional heating methods and learned how to produce biohumus. Biothermal energy is a renewable energy source that seeks to generate electricity from the composting of organic materials, and often used in agricultural applications.

Through the project, they are building a new, larger greenhouse with biothermal heating. The opportunity to harvest fresh vegetables all year round is especially valuable for a region suffering from an environmental disaster. The drying up of the Aral Sea, which changed the entire lifestyle of people in this area, has affected people's health, employment, climate and soil conditions. Until recently, fresh food was only available in certain seasons.

“We have been selling fresh vegetables and herbs for several years all-year round, both in winter and summer. Buyers find us themselves, come to our greenhouse,” Biyshegul says proudly. “With the new greenhouse, we’ll even be able to breed new varieties of tomatoes.”

Agriculture plays a critical role in the economic system as it can help reduce poverty, raise incomes and improve food security, amongst many other benefits. But the agricultural practices must be sustainable and minimize unintended environmental consequences.

The “Towards Green Recovery in Uzbekistan” project, supported by UNDP’s regional COVID-19 recovery efforts, is piloting a model of integrated green and inclusive local economic development that can be adapted nation-wide, while creating an enabling environment and policy and regulatory framework that can stimulate long-term green recovery measures at all levels.

Uzbekistan’s work to develop a green economy was already in motion in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Its strategy sets targets to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by increasing energy efficiency, enhancing the use of renewable energy, improving resource efficiency and crop yields, and limiting land degradation. Meanwhile, UNDP and its partners are providing strategic and policy level support to the government to help facilitate this green transition.

“Towards Green Recovery in Uzbekistan” is part of UNDP’s regional Rapid Response Facility COVID-19 recovery efforts, which supports catalytic investments promoting low-carbon business models and green solutions for the post-pandemic world and global economy.