Our school feeding programme is succeeding, it seems. It should. As donors and supporters withdraw gradually, we should be able to stand on our own.
Many schools are already growing their own vegetables. We had school agriculture programme, which sort of died out. Now, though, it is coming back, and with renewed vigour. There is no doubt that we can build a nationally-owned sustainable school meals programme.
We have had issues of students suffering from malnutrition because they did not get balanced diet in the school. It happened because schools weren’t growing vegetables of their own and had to resort to buying vegetables. When the cost of buying food for hundreds of heads becomes huge, compromises will have to be made, the repercussions of which could be painful.
That’s why introduction of a subject called Agriculture for Food Security in high schools is relevant, which will give our schools and students knowledge required to grow their own and nurture the crops successfully. The subject will also help students prepare themselves to face the reality out of school.
What is good about the introduction of the subject is that our schools will be independent when it comes to feeding the children. That way, burden on the government to provide free meals in schools will also be vastly reduced. The beauty of it all is that it has the scope to be a productive and sustainable engagement. Avenues could open for students to specialise in agricultural studies.
Even as our arable land continues to be gobbled up by urbanisation and ever-increasing development projects, we talk about achieving food self-sufficiency. Farming is becoming ever more difficult due to small support systems like availability of loan and incentives for farmers. In this perspective, introduction of Agriculture for Food Security as a subject could not be more relevant.
We buy huge amount of vegetables from India every year because we do not produce enough at home. But what we import is often not safe for consumption. It has been found that some vegetables imported from India contain high residues of pesticides.
If agriculture in the schools succeeds, it could also benefit the communities surrounding them by way of commerce. What it could lead to is having enough for all.