A recent survey by the agriculture ministry found that more than 3,000 youth have returned to their villages in the six eastern dzongkhags to take up farming.

The youth had either completed class X or XII and excludes students living in the villages for less than a year. This is considered a great leap towards urban-rural migration and some signs of positive aspect of investments made towards making Bhutan food self-sufficient.

As the country celebrated the World Food Day in Tsirang yesterday, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji reminded that there is need to stop migration and focus towards food security and self-sufficiency.

He said that the number of youth returning to the villages to take up farming is a good sign. “The number is significant and this means that the basic infrastructure is already there in rural areas. People now feel comfortable to live in villages,” he said.

However, lyonpo said, that the government needs to add more to the existing facilities so that the number of people for opting rural areas to make a living keeps increasing.

The theme this year ‘change the future of migration, invest in food security and rural development’ is appropriate at a time when Bhutan, although not in a migration crisis like many other countries across the world, is becoming part of the world community.

“We’re at a juncture where the 12th Plan is being prepared and we need to further enhance and accelerate rural development,” lyonpo said.

School Agriculture Programme (SAP) is another important factor that contributes towards becoming food self-sufficient. It is one of the methods of providing enough food to children in schools.

Some drastic changes are expected in the School Agriculture Programmes in terms of budgetary support, organisational structure and the importance given in the school curricula. To diversify and make the programme more vibrant, a national conference will be conducted in December to work out future plans, officials said.

To recognise the hard work put in SAP, school were awarded prizes and trophies on their SAP performance. Damphu Central School bagged the first position among the higher secondary schools. It is the third time Damphu took the position, now making it a model farm School.

Among the middle secondary schools, Wanakha CS stood first and Genekha Campus (Wangbama CS) took away the first position in the lower secondary school level. Lharing Primary School in Sarpang stood first in the primary school level. Zangkhar Primary School in Lhuentse bagged the title for the best model farm school.

Damphu CS principal Dawa Tshering said, that the agriculture activities in his school are meant for the students. SAP is meant for skill development of the students and not to make profit out of it, he said. “Students are given hands-on experience so that they practice it back home during vacation and teach their family members and relatives,” he said.

In terms of skilled development, the school has trained at least 300 students in sewerage treatment.

Genekha campus, which is part of Wangbama CS was another school that bagged the first position consecutively for three years and qualified to become a model farm school. SAP Genekha started in 2012 and is funded by Thailand Princess project. The school today has a piggery farm (six pigs), vegetable gardening on 1.5 acre land, poly house, apple orchard with 70 trees and a poultry farm consisting of 200 layers.

SAP focal teacher, Kinley Namgyel said there are certain things that need to be considered to become a model school. School as an institution is not meant for carrying out farming on a larger scale, he said, and what the school is doing now is going for the process and not the product.

To date, the school has accumulated Nu 330,000 by selling the farm produce to the school mess. This is 50 percent of the income after refunding 50 percent to the students. “Besides providing skills to students, these are certain things I consider as important in order to become a model farming school,” he said.

As part of the World Food Day celebrations, communities of Tsirang displayed various crops, fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock products. Prepared food such as quinoa pudding, quinoa dresi, porridge, buckwheat noodles and fortified rice among others were offered to the participants.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang