An exposure trip was organized to Farm2Food Foundation, Jorhat, Assam on the 27th and 28th September 2019.
As part of the GIZ project “Enhancing nutritional diversity as a means of supplementing the mid-day meals of primary school children”, 29 representatives from five communities, namely, Umdiengpoh, Mawmihthied, Nongtraw, Dewlieh and Laitsohpliah, East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya visited Farm2Food Foundation in Jorhat, Assam for two days to learn and gather ideas in order to strengthen the initiatives on Mid-Day meals (MDM), farmpreneur, school gardens, in their own communities.
Among the representatives were farmers, mid-day meal cooks, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) cooks, schoolteachers, and youth.
On the first day, members of Farm2Food Foundation greeted the team at Bosco Institute.
Mr. Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma, Director of Farm2Food Foundation shared, “We aim to create opportunities for young people who wish to return to their villages. These opportunities should come from our strength, and that strength is our food system. That’s how Farm2Food Foundation was started.”
Later the team visited a school that Farm2Food Foundation is engaged with, in Golaghat District of Assam. At Sanmilita High School, the teachers and students shared about their way of executing the school garden initiatives.
They use geometrical shaped raised beds for planting. This way the students also learn about Mathematics. There was also a demonstration of this idea.
Mr. Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma said, “School gardens are joyful learning. The students are not only planting but also learn a lot while planting. Like teaching them geometry in school gardens, or using different tools, etc. This becomes a theory and practical experience.”
In this school, children grow food in groups. The School Principal then buys these crops and the money is transferred to the bank accounts of the members of that particular group.
Kong Binasi Swer, a young farmer from Laitsohpliah community said, “I observed in the MDM that banana leaves were used as plates to serve food. It would be very effective if we also use it in our schools since in our community water is scarce”.
In the evening, the team got the opportunity to visit Mr. Modaram Lahkar who is a farmpreneur and focuses on cultivating and marketing crops that have high medicinal values. Even in his 70s, Mr. Lahkar tried to share every experience that he has had with food products and their medicinal values. He said he Meghalaya team, “Your region is blessed with abundant food crops that are high medicinal values. So much can be done, if you put in a little effort and work on promoting these crops”.
On the second day of the exposure trip, the team visited another school in Jorhat District of Assam called Charibahi Girls High School.
During the interactive session with the school, Bah Nestar Kharmawphlang, Headmaster of Laitsohpliah RCLP School, asked about the regularity and time-sensitivity of the supply of MDM food items. This school receives food items on time and they provide meals for the children from Monday to Saturday. The school teachers also added that there is surplus as each student is allotted around Rs. 7 per meal per day, with rice being directly distributed by the Government.
This is not the case in our communities. Kong Diana Kharakor, MDM cook from Mawmihthied LP School shared, “It gets very difficult for us to keep it going because we receive funds quite late and also, very less. Each student is allotted around Rs. 4.48 and Rs. 6.35 per meal per day for eh student in LP and UP schools respectively, with raw rice directly from the Government. With this, we can provide MDM only thrice a week. And also, the MDM cooks are underpaid. Those are the challenges in our communities”.
Kong Sketcy Dohling, a teacher from Dewlieh LP School said that she would try to implement the learning, like vermi compost and geometric shapes in the school gardens.
Kong Bibiana Ranee, a farmer from Nongtraw community shared, “The teachers and students in the two schools we visited were well-groomed, and also the school campus was clean”
Later, the team went for home visits, whereby they visited the homes of the students and also met with the parents who are farmers. The students are also committed to taking back home whatever they learn in the school. They also grow their food at home.
Mr. Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma shared that they encourage the children to say, ‘’These are my vegetables. I grow them at home. And this brings about a sense of ownership and a sense of ownership can also help fight malnutrition”.
In the concluding programme at Bosco Institute, there was an interactive session.
Bah Nestar Kharmawphlang raised a question the issue of heavy rainfall that can destroy the school gardens. Mr. Deep Jyoti suggested introducing box or bag farming to avoid heavy rain.
He added that one could plant along herbs aside the crops to avoid making the soil loose and not lead to the destruction of plants.
“To survive, to learn and to work, first we need to be healthy. And for that, we need to consume healthy food, and our local food has so much potential as they are most nutritious food. Hence, strengthening the local food system is very important for well-being”, said Mr. Deep Jyoti.