Food and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Water-smart greenhouses in Uzbekistan

Simple yet innovative farming technologies and techniques save natural resources while increasing incomes

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New “smart” farming techniques and technologies, like drip irrigation and pest traps, are helping farmers in Uzbekistan revolutionize their greenhouses, save water and increase their crop yields and incomes. ©FAO/Guzal Fayzieva


Large, flavorful tomatoes ripen in Odina Sattorova’s backyard greenhouse in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley. Their perfect shape, rich colour and smooth texture – undeniable indicators of quality – are the result of many days of intensive work in the greenhouse. Odina, who has worked in greenhouses taking care of seedlings and helping harvest grapes since she was young, was used to this kind of hard work. Her family relied on agriculture to earn their living.

But this now 43-year-old woman farmer has learned that there are new “smart” farming techniques that reduce labour and markedly increase productivity and profitability. The facts speak for themselves. Today, Odina grows about 400 kilograms of tomatoes per week during the harvest season, whereas before, she hardly produced even 120 kilograms. Along with the quantity, the quality of the product has also improved. The fruits are consistently smooth, large and more flavorful than the previous ones.

Odina learned to utilize these transformative techniques through the project, “Smart Farming for the Future Generation”, implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). With financial support from the Republic of Korea, this project was launched in 2021 in Uzbekistan and Viet Nam to introduce new growing methods and tools that decrease water consumption and labour, while increasing yields, crop quality and incomes.

The project introduced simple innovations in water management, pest control and greenhouse improvements, such as the use of a plastic shade net, instead of the traditional clay cover, on top of the greenhouse to keep it from overheating. The new plastic film is not only more durable but it also absorbs ultraviolet radiation and prevents condensation on the inside of the greenhouse.

Of all the tools introduced by the project, Odina considers the drip irrigation system the most useful and effective one. The irrigation system includes a fertilization mechanism, which allows her to provide nutrients to the crops. The system also measures the salinity and acidity of the water and, most importantly, regulates its use, saving this valuable resource.

The FAO project helped farmers install a water tank and drip irrigation system that saves water, as well as farmers’ time and effort. It also reduces the prevalence of plant diseases, as water dispersal is regulated automatically. ©FAO/Guzal Fayzieva

Water issues have always been crucial for Odina’s district of Uzbekistan. Being very near the border with Kyrgyzstan, this area has been highly dependent on water sources coming from this neighbouring country. Also located at an altitude of 677 metres above sea level, with steep and treeless terrains, digging wells is not a reliable option, as it is often too deep and expensive to do so.

In this setting, farmers used to rely on canals that brought water to the villages from the hills. Farmers would have to wait for her or his turn to use the water to irrigate their land.

Now the water is collected in a special water tank and then used as necessary, with the system irrigating greenhouses automatically. The uniform water supply of the drip irrigation system maintains the required humidity of the soil and the greenhouse as a whole. This is important because when there is too much water, excessive moisture creates a favorable environment for plant diseases.

“It is very convenient, saves me time and effort, and most importantly, saves water,” Odina explains of the drip irrigation system.

“Before, I did not know how important it is to keep a constant record of temperature and humidity inside the greenhouse. I did not know how to prevent the spread of various plant diseases, due to which we used to lose a significant part of the crop. I learned these and other useful things during the FAO trainings,” she says.

With these new skills and practices, Odina has grown her tomato business into a thriving small enterprise and receives two to three times her previous income.

New methods for green growth

Neighbours and guests who visit Odina’s farm immediately notice the improvements to the greenhouse, including the insect-proof mesh that covers all openings, the disinfectant foot mat at the entrance and the sticky traps for pests, all of which contribute to minimizing the use of pesticides.

“It is easier to prevent pests and diseases from entering the greenhouse than to deal with them later,” says Luciano Rovesti, FAO Expert on Integrated Pest Management. “These are simple but important technological innovations that will greatly aid in reducing the incidence of pests, in the same way that the adoption of drip irrigation reduces the incidence of plant diseases.”   

Digitalization is another important aspect of greenhouse management. The project is testing equipping greenhouses with sensors and software for measuring soil moisture, solar radiation, humidity and air temperature. This data is then displayed on the farmers' mobile devices and allows them to remotely control the microclimate in greenhouses and irrigate in a timely manner.

The FAO project plans to increase the number of “smart” greenhouses in Uzbekistan. ©FAO/Guzal Fayzieva

For Odina’s family, the additional revenue from her flourishing backyard greenhouse is more than welcome. Odina, who has worked at home all her life, now wants to provide her daughters with the opportunities that come with higher education. She is saving the money she earns to pay for her daughters’ university fees. One is studying to be a doctor and the other to be a teacher – while her youngest daughter is preparing to enter university.

Odina's is one of 40 greenhouses that FAO has modernized in the Andijan, Namangan and Ferghana regions of Uzbekistan. When farming becomes "smart" and incomes become sustainable, confidence in the future increases. This year the project aims to increase the number of optimized greenhouses and extend these sustainable practices even further.

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