The fourth Chukha dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) on March 15 endorsed a scheme to bring boarding schools and farmers together to provide nutrient-rich food to students.

The tshogdu approved pilot testing of this programme for six months when local vegetables are readily available.

Chukha’s chief dzongkhag education officer (DEO), Kinley Gyeltshen, said government spends Nu 10M  annually for vegetables and other items for the dzongkhag’s schools.

Schools are supplied about 10 metric tonnes (MT) each of potatoes and cabbages, 3MT beans and 2MT cauliflowers annually.

“We import them all,” the chief DEO said. “And we don’t have the advantage of providing nutrients.”

Kinley Gyeltshen said that Chukha had the potential to grow all that are being imported.

The tshogdu also discussed a few major challenges the programme could face. Farmers would not be able to take their products to viable markets and do not look to produce at commercial level. There could, thus, be issues with the rates and challenges in sustaining the supply of vegetables.

A farmers’ marketing group (FMG) will be identified in each place, which would sign memorandum of understanding (MoU) with farmers, followed by MoU between schools and FMG. The pilot project would also fix stable and standard prices for all the produces so that farmers benefit. FMG would directly supply to the schools as per the MoU.

Officials from education division, agriculture, livestock, and schools will collaborate and make this happen. The DT has targeted the first supply by July-mid this year.

Chukha Dzongdag Minjur Dorji said the new initiative would be of immense help.

“It will provide nutrient-rich food in schools,” he said, adding that the initiative would then benefit farmers.

He said such enterprise would replace import and elevate self-reliance.

“If it works, we can be an example,” Minjur Dorji said.

Geling gup Phub Dorji said the initiative would help incentivise farmers’ pocket and improve community economy.

“And it will, most importantly, give our students nutritious food,” the gup said.

The tshogdu highlighted that the initiative would mean the school children would get access to more organic and chemical free food system.

Rajesh Rai | Chukha