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Planting the seeds of food security

The Sharipov family live in Oltovul village (Kulyab District) in Tajikistan. 35-year old Abduholok works in a collective farm as a seasonal labourer, where he can earn 1 diram (€0.05) per kilogramme of cotton collected. Sometimes he also works on the markets in Dushanbe or Kurgan-Tjube as a porter. His wife, 32 year old Nizora, brings up their four children. At harvest time, Nizora also works in the fields collecting cotton.

Nizora displays her bumper harvest.
Nizora displays her bumper harvest.
Photo : EC/ECHO/Cécile Pichon

The Sharipovs have often found it hard to make ends meet. Outside the cotton gathering season, Abduholok’s wages were simply not enough to feed a growing family. The children became malnourished and vulnerable to common diseases. “It is not easy to be constantly depending on relatives and neighbours, asking them again and again for help”, said Abduholok.

The family were among 17,700 people to benefit from the distribution of vegetable seeds in November 2002 for planting in spring 2003. The project, implemented by Mission East and financed by ECHO, was designed to improve the food security of vulnerable people, and help them regain their independence in dignity. The Sharipovs received 150 kilogrammes of potato seeds, 900 grammes of onion seeds, 80 grammes of carrot seeds, 10 grammes of tomato seeds, 50 grammes of pumpkin seeds and 40 kilogrammes of fertiliser. After receiving the seeds, Abduholok and Nizora participated in a Mission East gardening workshop. “In Soviet times, we only grew cotton as a cash crop, so we did not know how to grow and look after food crops such as potatoes, onions or tomatoes. At the workshop we learned how to start our garden and to use fertilisers and pesticides”, explained Abduholok.

The Sharipovs were blessed with a rich harvest that season, producing even more vegetables than needed for their own consumption – 1.5 tonnes of onions, 750 kilogrammes of potatoes, 1.5 tonnes of tomatoes and 54 kilogrammes of pumpkins. Nizora said: ”Thanks to the rich harvest, we saved on our wages from the cotton collection. We did not need to spend much money on buying food, since the garden provided enough to feed the family. We bottled some of the surplus for the cold winter months and sold the rest on the market. With the profit, we were able to buy additional food products such as sugar, oil and wheat. We were also able to buy a calf, and provide our children with clothes and stationary for school."