Qatar: Schools grow fruit and vegetables to boost food security

Food security and sustainability in Qatar was boosted with tons of fruit and vegetables that were grown in school greenhouses run by the Sahtak Awalan - Your Health First’s Khayr Qatarna program.

The produce was all grown in just three greenhouses sited at secondary schools in Qatar. Under the Khayr Qatarna initiative, Sahtak Awalan runs the greenhouses and the produce is then sold at local supermarkets. The program also teaches students about agriculture, logistics, economics and healthy food. All profits are reinvested in the scheme.

The fruit and vegetables were grown and harvested in the last 10 months, and comprised tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans.

The greenhouses are large-scale and climate-controlled.

With a further greenhouse now built at each of seven more schools, this year’s crop is set to increase. The strategic plan is for the scheme to expand across Qatar as the profits are ploughed back into the initiative. This will see more and more schools being included in the program as time goes on, helping to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030’s goals of sustainability and healthy future generations.

Nesreen Al-Rifai, chief communications officer at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, which runs Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First, said it was a wonderful first year.

Mrs Al-Rifai said: “The success of the Khayr Qatarna greenhouses has been beyond our expectations.

“With the invaluable contribution of all our strategic partners, we have helped support national sustainability and provided high school students with lessons about healthy eating, agriculture, economics and logistics.

“I would particularly like to thank the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for working with Your Health First, schools and teachers and offering us access to schools.

“The expansion to seven new schools will allow us to build upon this success and introduce new fruits and vegetables into the initiative. In the future, I hope that all secondary schools in Qatar will have one of our greenhouses and that together we can help create a healthy generation able to meet the challenges of Qatar National Vision 2030.”

The produce is sold in supermarkets under the Khayr Qaatarna brand name.

Hassan Al-Mohamedi, director of the Public Relations and Communications Department at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, said: “We are very happy to see growing health awareness among the community, which is related to the greenhouses in our schools. The collaboration between all of Your Health First’s strategic partners is an indication of the success of Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First. This success manifests itself in the way our students are taking care of their health and following good habits in order to improve the health of themselves and Qatar.

“The idea of the greenhouses in our schools is really beneficial because it allows our students to learn to love agriculture and the cultivation of plants, and also to benefit from the produce they grow, which is great to see. The students learn through planting and harvesting the produce and it teaches them awareness of how to live healthy lives. This is hugely beneficial to the nation; farming and planting fruit and vegetables will help Qatar to achieve self-sufficiency and it will, of course, allow people to purchase local produce and make our agricultural economy stronger.”

A greenhouse has been installed at the Audio Complex for Boys.

Greenhouses are currently sited at Amna Bint Wahab School, Osama Bin Zaid, and Zainab Preparatory School for Girls. The seven new schools to have received an installation are Audio Complex for Girls, Audio Complex for Boys, Roqaya Preparatory for Girls, Khalid Bin Ahmed for Boys, Al Wajba for Girls, Al Razi for Boys, and Moza Bint Mohammed for Girls. All the greenhouses apart from one have now been planted with new crops - including strawberries for the first time - and the first harvests of 2019 are expected from the end of this month until mid-March, depending on the crop. Further crops will then be sown.

Because the greenhouses are climate-controlled, fruits and vegetables can continue to be grown throughout the year, even during the summer months.

Khayr Qatarna was officially launched last February, with the first harvest in March of last year. Since then there have been two further harvests which have supplied fresh fruit and vegetables to local supermarkets to help improve food security, increase sustainability, and encourage healthy eating.

The initiative is an extension of Project Greenhouse which has seen 130 greenhouses built at local elementary schools to teach children the importance of eating healthy food and how to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

The Khayr Qatarna project and the wider Sahtak Awalan campaign has been supported by Qatar Foundation, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the Ministry of Environment and Municipality, Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil.

Source: Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar


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