With central schools to source shoes and socks requirement from domestic manufacturers the education minister is now mulling a similar arrangement of food supply from local farmers.
“Local vegetables which contain comparatively less chemicals would not only benefit the health of students but also encourage the farmers to produce and earn through it,” said education minister Norbu Wangchuk. “It would also contribute towards the goal of self-sufficiency.”
He said there is need to encourage schools and local farmers to work together to implement such a partnership all across the country. While it might not be as easy as supplying locally made socks and shoes the minister said farmers and schools can work towards it or anyone with such idea could initiate supply of locally produced food and vegetables.
Since 2000, schools have been implementing the School Agriculture program (SAP) initiated by the education and agriculture ministry to grow vegetables and rear livestock and poultry as a school activity.
From six schools at the start today 300 schools across the country have adopted the SAP whose main objective is to instill among students respect and dignity for farming, impart basic knowledge and skills of agriculture science and demonstrate farming is a viable enterprise to produce and supplement nutritious fresh food.
Since the program began until 2015, vegetable production increased from 0.2 metric tonnes (MT) to 167 MT in 2015, pork from 1.2 MT to 75 MT and 150 boxes of eggs to 2733.
“While 100% implementation of supplying the local vegetable to all the school across the country may not be possible due to the nature and difference of regions we are trying our best to have practiced in some schools where it is possible while 10% of the schools mostly in eastern region is already practicing it,” said the Dy. Chief program Officer of School Health and Nutrition Division, Desang Dorji. “This practice would help in many ways other than just the health of a students.”
He added that the practice would also help promote the dignity of labor and inhabit the team work and discipline spirits in students.
The farmer to school and linking farmer to school program was introduced to achieve the idea of providing good nutrition to students and income for the farmers.
“More than self-sufficiency within schools we want our students to be healthy and at the same time learn about agriculture since it’s the backbone of our country,” said the Program Officer of Department of Agriculture for SAP, BB Rai.
He also said, “There is also a mutual agreement between schools and community that whatever the farmers produce will be consumed by schools. It will also encourage farmers to produce more than what they normally produce so that school need not always tender the vegetable supply outside.”
“A school like Phekuma Primary School in a remote part of Dagana can be an example where the involvement of community is so vigorous that the school doesn’t need any supply from different places and sometimes there is even excess supply from the community” he added.
He said that each teacher from a school is trained and once they are trained, they become a focal agriculture teacher for the school and they take it as a club till class eight. For class nine and above it will be learned as a subject.
Overall it is found out that 35% of the livestock and 20% of vegetable is met through the SAP program.