The Orong incident has taught schools some valuable lessons on the need to feed nutritious meals

Food: The decision Damphu Higher Secondary School took last year to convert 30 acres of barren land into cultivable land paid off when the school received an award for the best agriculture farm yesterday during the World Food Day celebrations.

The day was observed, for the first time in Martshala Middle Secondary School in Martshala gewog, Samdrupjongkhar’s most remote gewog, to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

After the land remained barren for more than a decade, the school principal initiated to cultivate the land as part of the school agriculture program (SAP).

Today, the school grows vegetables, mushroom, cardamom, has an orange orchard with almost 400 trees and practices fishery and piggery. It also has a poultry farm and cultivates maize and paddy.

Principal Dawa Tshering said while oranges and cardamom are auctioned, the meals for its 391 borderers are supplemented with eggs, vegetables, mushrooms, and dairy products from their farm. The school also includes fish and pork in the mess menu.

“We realized the importance of nutrition after Orong school students’ death over lack of nutritious meal became an issue,” he said. “That’s why we started the SAP and our hard work has paid off.”

Samtengang Central School in Wangdue also took the best agriculture farm among the middle secondary schools while Wangbama Central School in Thimphu won the award in the lower secondary school level. Zhangkhar Primary School in Lhuentse won the award among the primary schools.

Education minister Mingbo Dukpa stressed on the importance of SAP and said it was not only important to practice agriculture but also to consider the nutrition aspects.

The world food day’s theme, social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty, SAP coordinator BB Rai said, was related to the 11th Plan’s goal of food and nutrition security.

BB Rai said the SAP was evaluated on production, revenue and sustainability of agricultural land.

According to the food and nutrition security document, Bhutan is today 69 percent self sufficient in rice and other cereals, and 89 percent in vegetables.

“We’re neither self-sufficient nor vulnerable, but we’re definitely not starving,” he said, adding a family is able to eat at least two meals a day.

Although, Bhutan has 38,394 square km land, only seven percent of the land is arable of which only three percent is cultivated.

Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupcholing