National School Agriculture Programme (SAP) started for the first time from July 5 in Punakha and Thimphu.

More than 150 students from Thimphu’s middle and high schools are participating in the programme.

SAP coordinator with the department of agriculture, BB Rai, said, “Although such programmes were conducted at local levels (in schools), this is the first time that this is happening at national level.”

The two groups – one with 103 students and the other with 53 –will learn and work from established farms in Thimphu and Punakha respectively.

The students will learn floriculture, mushroom and vegetable cultivation and weeding, among others.

BB Rai said the main objective of the programme is to engage the youth meaningfully during their summer vacation.

“The students were excited to experience paddy weeding for the first time,” he said.

Deputy chief programme officer of school health and nutrition division, Desang Dorji, said the programme aims to make agriculture enjoyable. He said the programme would help students in the city experience village life.

BB Rai said that to experience hostel life, the group of students in Punakha live in a school hostel.ßssss

“Out of the 53 students, only one had experienced hostel life,” he said.

The students in Punakha will work in the Chimipang Royal Orchard for more than half their stay.

BB Rai said the students will observe and interact with the workers in the morning and will help with the work for about three hours in the afternoon.

He said that apart from working in the designated areas, the students will also tour the nearby agriculture establishments.

The students are paid Nu 215 per day to foster the concept of learning and earning.

“This will encourage the students to have their own bank accounts,” BB Rai said.

Only about three students had bank account. The ministries hope to encourage at least half of the participants to have bank accounts by the end of their programme.

A bus service is provided to the students.

Desang Dorji said that if the programme is successful, the ministries will look into conducting the same programme in other dzongkhags.

The programme is organised by agriculture ministry in collaboration with education ministry.

The programme will end on July 13.

Karma Cheki