Four years ago, an initiative was taken to ensure that each student was fed at least three eggs a week. But miscommunications and misunderstandings did not allow the programme to hatch.
Sometime in 2015, this programme was piloted in six schools of Lhuentse with school agriculture programme (SAP). If successful, the programme was to be rolled out to other feeding schools in the country. The idea was successfully shared when the last government went around the country and spoke on the importance of eating eggs.
However, except for Lhuentse, the initiative could not be implemented in other schools.
It was also piloted in 25 schools of Pemagatshel and Zhemgang. Today, save for few schools like Wangbama, Damphu, Genekha, Tangmachu, and Autsho, the concept of three eggs a week a child remains forgotten.
Only 64 schools including the 25 pilot schools have poultry farms and are providing eggs to students, officials from education and agriculture ministries say. However, they are not fed three eggs, a week.
What happened, according to officials was that the concept was misunderstood from the beginning. They shared that when the prime minister and former agriculture minister, who is also from Lhuentse, shared the idea, dzongkhags and schools assumed it was a mandatory government policy that all schools had to implement.
Coordinator for SAP with the department of agriculture, BB Rai said that three eggs, a child, a week was one of the strategies to supplement nutrition among students of feeding schools. It was implemented together with the education ministry.
He said the strategy was to make schools open poultry farms to provide eggs and not necessarily three eggs a week. Poultry farming was found to be feasible in schools.
“However, when it came to implementation, the message was carried differently and all feeding schools thought they should provide three eggs a week,” he said. “Those schools without poultry farm also thought they should provide the same but the stipend was not enough.”
BB Rai said the three eggs, a week, a child was not really a failed programme but a misunderstood concept.
“The pilot programme was implemented in 25 schools funded by government of India and they got the benefits,” he said. “But for some schools, sustainability became a challenge.”
He said if the schools have to supply three eggs a week then each child should have one hen, which is not possible. “Poultry farming has failed especially in the schools that do not have SAP.
However, BB Rai agreed that the three eggs, a child, a week initiative became an orphan after the organisational development exercise recommended dissolving the Council for RNR Research of Bhutan (CoRRRB).
This was because, he said, CoRRRB provided the fund for this concept and its budget had to be surrendered to the livestock department, which used the fund for mega farms.
Deputy chief programme officer with the department of school and health division at the education ministry, Desang Dorji said there was no supplementary budget to take forward the concept and it was discontinued.
“The three eggs, a week, a child was not feasible and was difficult to meet. The concept was ad-hoc and although good, it was expensive.”
Desang Dorji said those schools that have poultry farms still provide eggs to students.
“Schools would have to buy eggs from the market if they’ve to meet this concept, which would be expensive,” he said.
This led to the concept being removed from the APA 2017 and the story of three eggs, a child, a week do not exist anymore.
In the 12th Plan, BB Rai said, that the agriculture department would support both agriculture and livestock activities in SAP.
“The objective is to provide small scale livestock activities for nutrition education and not to provide eggs,” he said. “We would encourage schools to opt for poultry farming wherever feasible.”
The proposal aims schools to sell the eggs to the mess and support about 20 schools with a minimum of Nu 300,000 to establish the farm. The department aims to cover about 60 schools.
The 64 schools with poultry farm have produced 1.5 million eggs from February to December 2018.
Excluding the 64 schools with poultry farms, 19 schools have dairy farms, 12 have fishery farms and 90 have piggery farms.
Yangchen C Rinzin