From field to cafeteria: linking farmers with schools in Bhutan
To address some of the issues facing poor communities in eastern Bhutan, The Market Access & Growth Intensification Project (MAGIP) was started in 2011 with the explicit goal of improving smallholder farmers’ food security and to connect them to previously inaccessible, rural markets.
In the eastern, mountainous region of the Kingdom of Bhutan, villages remain isolated and the terrain is extremely rugged. It is an area where food insecurity is at its highest. Students from these villages, who spend two or three hours walking one way to reach the nearest primary school, require good nutrients to learn and thrive. As such, the issues affecting these students extend beyond just transport infrastructure and reach all the way to their cafeteria tables.
For years, it has been the case that schools and institutions in these eastern regions have procured vegetables from India through a tendering system, which further contributed to Bhutan’s trade imbalance with India. While this allowed for lower costs, the vegetables were rarely fresh. Furthermore, since shipments were limited to one per month, the deliveries typically lacked diversity and consisted of varieties such as potatoes and cabbage that would rarely spoil.
To address some of the issues facing poor communities in eastern Bhutan, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), along with SNV and the government of Sweden, began The Market Access & Growth Intensification Project (MAGIP) in 2011. MAGIP was funded with the explicit goal of improving smallholder farmers’ food security and to connect them to previously inaccessible, rural markets. MAGIP works by contractually linking local school and institutions with nearby smallholder farmer groups.
Thus far about 60 farmer groups, representing 800 farming families, have signed contracts with 27 schools, two vocational institutes and one monastery. In 2013, farmer groups supplied 456 tonnes of vegetables and generated approximately US$111,800.00 in revenue. While farmer groups have been able to secure regular income through this initiative to enhance their livelihoods, participating institutions, such as local schools have, in turn, gained access to a wide variety of vegetables — about 20 — freshly picked from nearby.