75-year-old Piedade Fernandes from Corjuem and 81-year-old Maria D’Souza from Aldona have been ardent gardeners and have dedicated parts of their plots for gardening on a rocky plateau. On World Environment Day, NT BUZZ highlights the efforts of these passionate environment-friendly women and finds out about their love for organic gardening
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Retirement is supposed to be a transition to one’s golden years, but for Piedade Fernandes and Maria D’Souza age is just a number. For them the end of their professional careers meant the beginning of their journey as gardeners. The two have been growing an array of vegetables, flowers and medicinal plants and fruits on their land. Though this may seem easy it’s definitely not. The women live along an area where laterite rock makes gardening cumbersome. Dodging the laterite stones whenever possible or cutting the rock if needed, the two just haven’t given up. Their hard work and positive attitude has yielded results – growing a variety of vegetables including a few exotic ones.
Piedade cultivates vegetables like brinjal, cabbage, ladyfinger, cauliflower, amaranth, tomato, chilli, cluster beans, lentils, spinach, herbs and spices, as well as exotic vegetables like broccoli, turnip, zucchini, to name a few. “The garden abodes different varieties of fruits like pineapples, cashews, jackfruits, mangoes, chikoos and flower plants like roses, orchids and lots more,” says Piedade who is still enthusiastic about learning new techniques of gardening. Besides growing her own vegetables and fruits she also produces her own compost using cow dung and foliage and uses organic manure.
The two self-taught gardeners don’t have any formal education in agriculture. But, have attended workshops to understand what goes into planning a garden and how it is to be maintained properly – from watering plants to weeding. “I attend workshops, lectures and seminars to increase my knowledge of what goes into maintaining a garden and making your own compost,” says Piedade. Maria owing to her deteriorating health has given up on travelling but has stuck by her garden. She now relies on the internet to get her doze of information. “I do my research on the internet and get my answers within a few seconds. Sometimes I do not get the desired results and hence I ask people who have knowledge about this topic,” says Maria.
Piedade sells the produce in the Mapusa Friday market. Besides, people also visit her garden to buy vegetables and saplings. Both have participated in several gardening contests held across the state. While Piedade has three people to help her in gardening, Maria relies on her domestic help for assistance.
There have been times when their crops do not see the light of the day, especially when gardening and farming is heavily reliant on natural factors like the climate, but the two remain unperturbed and cultivate a new batch of vegetables all over again. “The only reason why I continue gardening is that I don’t want to keep my land barren, moreover I like doing it,” says Piedade, while for Maria it is now her purpose of living.