How breadbakery can preserve forests and makes rural women’s lives easier

Author: Elena Amira Turaeva

November 22, 2022
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

It is not a secret that Uzbek people cherish bread, which occupies a special position on every Uzbek table. You will hardly see  any bread being wasted, even breadcrumbs are fed to birds but not thrown on the ground, and of course no Uzbek feast is complete without traditional breaking of a hot flatbread. 

Traditionally, bread is baked in a tandoor (traditional round-shaped oven) and each household in a makhalla (neighborhood) have their own tandoor. While in the city, you can easily buy fresh bread in the store, and the tandoor is used on holidays only, but in remote villages home-made bread is the usual staple of a household. Despite the delicious aroma of a freshly baked flatbread, it is worth mentioning that puts certain burden on the environment, as one needs to burn a shrub or a tree to heat the tandoor.

Today, Uzbekistan is positively addressing the issue of natural gas supply to remote villages. While state programmes are in progress as planned, there are remote mountain makhallas, which are not yet provided with natural gas, and in order for people to cook food, the government has organized the delivery of liquified propane gas in cylinders, as well as the sale of wood.  The supply volumes are sufficient for now, but there are still high risks that residents may resort to illegal logging in the wild.  It is very difficult to control this process in such places due to the vastness and inaccessibility of these areas. 

As part of the Technical Assistance Programme for the pilot regions of the joint UNDP and the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Ecology and Environmental Protection project “Sustainable natural resource and forest management in key mountainous areas important for globally significant biodiversity” funded by the Global Environment Facility, two projects have been implemented in the Pskem and T. Dadabaev makhallas of the Bostanlyk district, Tashkent region to set up bakeries.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

The first project has been implemented in the T. Dadabaev village citizens’ assembly. The application was submitted by Chingiz Joldashbaev, one of the village residents. His mother Muskhal Chotpaeva works at the bakery together with him. Like all the other women in the makhalla, Muskhal used to bake bread in a clay tandoor. The Joldashbaevs have 4 children and Muskhal opa was responsible for all the domestic work and care for grandchildren, and the bakery has been a great help in her everyday life. Currently, T. Dadabaev village citizens’ assembly covers 3 villages with 936 residents in these villages, of whom 477 are women. Now these villages are provided with bread and no longer need to bake bread in a tandoor, thanks to the installed equipment and hard work of the Joldashbaev family.

The second Project has been implemented in the neighboring Pskem makhalla, where Khilola Mirzoyokubova, mother of three children and nurse at the rural medical center, together with her husband work at the bakery, providing bread to 150 households with a population of 956 people.

Today, we are happy to announce that established bakeries has greatly helped significantly reduce the burden on women in these villages and has had a positive impact on the potential threat of illegal logging in the nearby forest. It is also worth mentioning that the bakeries have their fair share in improving the living conditions of women, especially during the period of agricultural work, when they, along with their husbands, worked in plots and gardens and baking bread took a lot of time and energy in addition to other chores. As the famous proverb goes “Bread is core to everything”. And, in fact, we see how many issues both for residents and nature have been positively addressed thanks to seemingly ordinary bread.