Goa has begun a journey towards self-reliance even if not self-sufficient in food production. The tradition of the Ganapati mattoli and the worship of Sateri Devi, in her various forms, have preserved our biodiversity.
We have seen how the traditional cultivation of rice by seeding with dry, or pregerminated paddy seed known as xell, chobo and rov, yielded way to the Japanese method of transplanting and onwards to the rice transplanter machines and combine harvesters.
The students of the Don Bosco College of Agriculture, Sulcorna, and graduates since 2019 have helped to accelerate the process along with Directorate of Agriculture, ATMA, KVK-North and South Goa, the Don Bosco Agriculture Society, the Goenche Xetkar and the Krishi Samruddhi FPO among other agencies.
The introduction of mechanized paddy seedling transplanters and combine harvester-thresher with ‘custom service’ subsidy started a flow of farmers back into the fields.
CHANGING AGRI SCENARIO
Tomorrow is Teachers’ Day and it is only right to remember the persons who have taught the people of Goa new skills in agriculture, whether in schools and colleges or in the crop fields. It is no mean task to teach organic agriculture in the ICAR system that is designed to promote the use of imported technologies and chemicals.
The earliest State Agriculture Universities (SAUs) accredited to ICAR began in the mid-1960s with funding from the Land Grants Universities of USA. American ‘Food for Peace’ program through USAID was linked to the import and use of urea.
Technical graduates were needed to coax or browbeat the farmers into use of fertilizers. New, fertilizer-responsive varieties were introduced. They were invariably susceptible to insect pests and chemical insecticides found a market.
Chemical herbicide toxicity are a cause for concern since the era of Glyophosate from Monsanto, and now, Almix from DuPont.
Organic agriculture is making fertilizer and insecticide companies run out of business. You bet that the corporates do not like it one bit.
We are happy that the ‘Green Revolution’ made us self-sufficient in foodgrains and we are also able to export food grains from India. That is good in a country that had famines till the time of independence and was not self-sufficient in food grains even when it liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan in December 1971.
The ‘Food for Peace’ was abandoned then to exercise sovereignty and we became self-reliant out of this necessity.
It in now time to review our food production systems and compute the cost of fertilizer subsidies and import costs of chemical pesticides. The farmers of Punjab, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have seen their fields go barren, and indebtedness due to the failure of insecticides to save their cotton crops, have made thousands of farmers to drink a cup of insecticide to end their misery.
It took me two years of fulltime work in the central secretariat of the Organic Farming Association of India (www.ofai.org), travel across India and interaction with organic farming practitioners across South Asia to understand the enormity of the issue.
On the eve of Teachers’ Day in India, I salute my organic agriculture gurus Dr Julian Gonsalves, Dr Vanaja Ramprasad, Dr Claude Alvares, Ong Kung Wai, Dr Andre Leu, Dr P,V Satheesh, Rony Joseph, Karen Mapusua and our friendly neighbour, Kesang Tshomo from the only organic country in the world, Bhutan. There are many others from whom I have learnt something more.
The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan