Seventy-six schools under the popular School Agriculture Programme (SAP) have produced about 1.95 million eggs last year, an average 1,950 eggs every month.
This was nearly four times the production in 2015 by sixty-three schools that produced about 573,000 eggs. About 243,000 eggs were produced last year.
The schools include 12 central schools that provide three eggs a week a child with support from the livestock department, and each of them has more than 400 birds in their poultry farms.
SAP coordinator with the Department of Agriculture (DoA), BB Rai, said the poultry farms are popular with the schools.
“Damphu Central School has sold their surplus eggs in the market,” he said.
Most of the schools have about 100 birds in their poultry farms. The egg self-sufficiency rate in the schools stands at 33 percent.
“The school agriculture farming is able to meet about 20 percent of the vegetable and egg requirements in the schools to date,” BB Rai said.
There are 300 schools implementing the integrated farming programme initially started to promote the dignity of labour among students in the eighth Plan, and has now grown to make students ‘work, produce and consume’.
Earlier it was left up to the schools to implement the programme but was made mandatory for the central schools this year.
The focal teachers of the programme are trained to manage the farms and to maintain proper accounts.
Besides, they have other advantages. “With the annual performance agreements, the coordinators have an edge over other teachers in performance as they take on this additional responsibility,” he said.
All schools have gardens and produced 196MT of vegetables last year, equal to 28 truckloads.
However, the programme suffered a glitch last year losing pork production by more than 15 metric tonnes.
Of the 300 schools, 75 with feeding programme have piggery that produced 60MT of pork last year compared to 75MT in 2015.
BB Rai said that schools have dismantled some piggery.
“It was mainly to do with social taboo and Gross National Happiness education in the schools,” he said. “It depends largely on the principals.”
The programme’s advantages are that the students learn to farm, eat fresh vegetables, and the school earns revenue.
All materials, including seeds, tools, and animal feed among others will be provided to schools.
The large-scale farming in schools is also expected to help meet the country’s food self-sufficiency, as local production meets less than 60 percent of the demand.
The government spends about Nu 4M on the programme annually.
The produce will also be sold at prices lower than the market rates to the schools. “Schools can buy more goods with limited budget because of this programme,” BB Rai said. Each student has a monthly stipend of Nu 1,000, which is not enough to cover the costs of a proper diet.
As an incentive, a certain portion of the proceeds from the sale of the product to the school mess goes to the students.
BB Rai said the policy is to make it more attractive to students and not to expose them to drudgery.
The programme has some challenges: making it attractive to youth, giving incentives and subsidies to make agriculture attractive, linking their lessons in schools with the jobs in the future.
“A multi-sectoral strategy is drafted to that end which will address these problems,” BB Rai said. “Integration of different sectors such as agencies from health, education and agriculture ministries will be the key going forward.”