Dr. Hemant Y Karapurkar, Goa’s former Director of Agiculture between 1970 and 1993, and who had his higher education in Germany, is the author of this slim book which raises a number of important issues.
At this time of the year, when the monsoon drenches Goa in its increasingly erratic manner, the fields should be green and productive. Yet, large stretches of uncultivated fields only reminds us of what’s going wrong in Goa’s agricultural sector today.
All the more reason to focus on this sector. Dr. Hemant Y Karapurkar, Goa’s former Director of Agiculture between 1970 and 1993, and who had his higher education in Germany, is the author of this slim book which raises a number of important issues.
He puts together the views of officials and representatives of non-profits, those trained long years in agriculture and others who have a deep passion for the field. Many interesting points are raised here, leading one to wonder: what is it in the government itself that blocks one from taking up and implementing such ideas while in office?
At one level, there is a description of the problem. At another, there are suggestions on what needs to be done, aptly complementing the first.
For instance, we’re told: traditional farmers have family members who don’t want to continue in the field. Hired labour comes at a very costly price. Mechanisation isn’t happening at the desired level (all the subsidies notwithstanding).
More serious concerns are also raised: chemical fertilizers, which have been promoted by the Goa government itself, have “increased” in use to a “great extent” leading to a “deterioration of soil health” (p.8).
In the opening essay, Dr Karapurkar points out that at the end of Portuguese rule five decades ago, over two-thirds of Goa’s population was engaged in agriculture. Today, hardly 16% continue in that profession.
The official narrative here runs into the face of reality though. Administrators say after Liberation, local agriculture got a boost, with many schemes, improved varieties and even totally new crops. Added to it, land reforms, however imperfect, were implemented on the argument that this would enhance productivity.
If so, why are we in Goa left with barren fields, a shrinking agriculture population and sharply declining productivity, and an even more acute inability to feed ourselves?
Official focus goes to the varieties of the ‘Green Revolution’. Like Taichung Native-I, IR-8, Jaya and Jyoti. Less often, we have been told about Goa’s age-old rice diversity, perfected in the muddy labs of the fields over generations and centuries, which are today scarce or even impossible to find. This included a salt-tolerant paddy variety.
Dr Karapurkar offers an overview of crops introduced to (or long grown in) Goa. From paddy to raggi (nachni), groundnut (brought to Goa only in the mid-1970s), sugarcane (the lone factory has however had “to depend on outside cane” since inception), rubber (static at 800 ha.), oil palm (does anyone remember Godrej and the promises of 1991?), cashew, arecanut (in the kullagars of Ponda and Sattari), and floriculture.
Mango is an interesting case study. There are over 77 varieties in Goa alone of this King of Fruits, but many are going extinct. Coconut was once concentrated in Salcete, Bardez and Tiswadi (Mormugao seems to be inadvertently excluded from this list). In recent decades, it was extended to Sanguem and Sattari. But there have been problems like mite diseases, and a lack of pluckers. This makes one wonder whether our agricultural institutions, including the Central Government affiliates, are effective in taking their science to the land.
Dhempe College’s Dr K.G. Hiremath focuses on ten important plant nurseries in Goa — Vikas, Mr Farmer, Dande’s Farm, Sahakari Farm, Savoi Plantation, Pascoal Nursery cum Organic Farm, Shirodkar’s Heera Farm, Rodney’s Roses, Sangod Organic Farm and Rustic Farm. Useful information on each is briefly outlined here. These could be called one of the success stories from beyond the official realm.
Dr. Claude Alvares makes a case of why Goa should go organic. He notes that the yeild from traditional rice varieties grown in the late 1960s was — according to an official study — as good if not better than the “so-called ‘high yielding varieties’ introduced under the green revolution … without the latter’s subsidized or expensive inputs.” (p 25)
There’s a list of 11 organic farmers or groups of farmers. Likewise, there’s a list of five organic stories in Goa: Vardaan (Margao), Earthworm (Alto Porvorim), Green Essentials (Taleigao), Swadeshi Joy (Saligao) and Green Goa Works (Mapusa). Most of us might not know these even exist.
Dr Karapurkar’s next offering is a plea to make Goa self-sufficient in vegetables. He points to specific areas (in Tiswadi, Bardez, Salcete, Ponda and Pernem) which could be used for vegetable cultivation. What with onion prices!
Yogita Mehra comes in with a chapter on farmers’ clubs. Her’s is not just theorising; Yogita and Karan are associated with the Chorao (Chodan-Madel) farmers club, which has notched up impressive achievements. It only goes to show what determination, hard work and clever strategising can achieve. Then there are specific tips on how to form one yourself!
Miguel Braganza, a former agricultural officer who probably is even more impressively productive outside of his former official employer, narrates the story of the Botanical Society of Goa. It is better known for its plant utsav and Konkan Fruit Fest.
Goa State Horticultural Corporation managing director U.B. Pai Kakode talks of talks about the activities of that institution, now 20 years old. He says each day GSHCL “procures over 120 tonnes of vegetables from (the) Belgaum market” to supply to its local outlets. This inadvertently tells us that much more needs to be done for food security locally, as is another give-away that points to the politicisation of such institutions, which probably explains some of their inefficiencies.
Director of Agriculture SPS Tendulkar focuses on what Goa is doing to mechanise agriculture. The final chapter is on contract farming. All in all, this is the kind of book which has a mix of quality and approach. Yet, the useful information contained in some pages makes it definitely worth reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in the field.
Steps Needed to Boost Agricultural Production in Goa
Dr. H. Y. Karapurkar (Ed)
2012. Rs 60. Pp 64.
Lokbhumi Prakashan, Panjim. Ph 9763817239