In a bid to supply schools and hospitals with domestically produced quality food and vegetables, 464 farmers of 29 groups were linked to 18 schools and a hospital in Trongsa Dzongkhag.
The farmer groups have signed the agreement with the schools last month and they will supply their vegetables to schools and hospitals on a weekly basis from the next academic year.
According to the Agriculture Extension Officer, Karma Chewang, about 22 types of vegetables have been identified by the schools and farmers to be supplied including garlic and ginger.
“As of now, farmers from four gewogs have supplied more than 10,000kgs of various vegetables from the normal production and the Dzongkhag is yet to receive more,” he said.
According to the production plan developed by extension and the groups, they have linked with farmer groups and identified vegetables as per schools’ demand and negotiated each vegetables price.
“Draft production plan was reviewed and the department of agriculture has been submitted upon which budget may be approved for the program,” Karma Chewang said.
With this program, the Regional Agriculture Marketing Cooperatives Office, Gelephu, in collaboration with gewogs and dzongkhag started linking individual schools with farmer groups, which completed in the end of October.
Karma Chewang said the pricing was the main issue where schools wanted at a very low price while farmers expected higher prices.
“But now with the government executive order schools are bound to buy from farmers which will provide assured market to farmers and enhance the production while school children will receive safe, domestically produced and socially acceptable vegetables and also replace poor quality and unsafe imported vegetables,” he added.
Meanwhile, with this program farmer groups have already started supplying available vegetables from the normal production from November 1 this year. They said that this program has made easier to sell their agriculture products.
One of the farmers, Ap Karchung said earlier they had to take their vegetables to the market and it was difficult for them sell it within a week. “Now, it is lucrative business for us, where market is accessible,” he said.
Another farmer said for continuous vegetable supply it will be challenging, especially during the off season, but they had talked with agriculture officials for green house and other agriculture equipment.
“This program has made a significant impact to farmers and to the national goal of ensuring food and nutrition security,” he said.
Further, production plans are in place and farmer groups are also preparing to supply full scale by the next academic year.
Agriculture extension staff of the gewog said they are responsible for planning, giving technical backstopping, advising and monitoring the production so that continuous supply is assured as per the demand of school through staggered production.
“For continuous supply green houses and micro irrigation will be promoted for off season production besides other inputs,” Karma Chewang said.
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu