250 Schools have the agriculture programme today
Agriculture: Investing in the School Agriculture Programme (SAP), a popular activity among schools, provides more benefits than providing annual budget for vegetable procurement.
An independent study of the programme showed that it saves Nu 11 million (M) each year for the government in terms of supplementing the food requirements of the schools.
“Almost all schools with the programme have earned some revenue through the sale of products,” the reported published in July stated.
The average annual income from sale of farm produce in schools that have the programme ranges from Nu 1,560 to Nu 210,850.
The higher grade schools have better turnover than the lower schools. The study covering 30 schools also found that all students of SAP schools apply their skills at home.
“The challenge now is how to cater to so many schools taking interest in the programme,” SAP programme officer, BB Rai said.
The Council for RNR Research of Bhutan official said each year more schools apply for membership.
The number of schools implementing the programme increased from 110 in 2008 to 250 in 2014, and 265 this year. Besides teaching students agriculture skills, it also contributed substantially to the food requirements of the schools.
Agriculture production is also on the rise. From 48,090 eggs in 2008, the programme last year produced 436,380 eggs, with an annual average growth of 48 percent.
Vegetable production increased almost four times to 126 metric tonne last year and pork production jumped more than eight times to 42MT from 5MT in 2008.
Based on the World Health Organisation baseline, the SAP contributed 3.52 percent of the total requirements of food in the boarding schools across the country, while the contributions of pork and eggs are 35.29 percent and 12.20 percent respectively.
Of the 172,393 students, 33,131 benefited from the school-feeding programme last year.
The government spends about Nu 4M on the programme annually.
Of the 250 schools in 2014 December, 68 had piggery, 45 poultry farms, and 220 grow vegetables, besides dairy farms too.
The study found that SAP could be implemented in all schools with boarding facilities in middle secondary schools, which consist of 56 percent of the SAP schools. More than 94 percent of SAP schools do not have any nutritional deficiency.
The programme started pot gardening in 14 Thimphu schools this year.
The program has been identified as one of the means to sustain the central and autonomous schools.
Agriculture officials said earlier it was left to the schools to have the programme, but now it was mandatory for these schools.
The programme is aimed at aiding the food security of the country in the long run.
By Tshering Palden