The 28 editions of the ‘Festival of Plants and Flowers’ at SFX School, Siolim (with an emphasis on biodiversity and organic cultivation of vegetables and fruits) as also an equal number of ‘Home Garden Competitions’ promoting the growing of ornamental plants and vegetables, composting kitchen wastes, and the periodic publication of books on how to do this in Goa is finally paying off. There is a growing awareness of the benefits of homegrown vegetables and fruits and some of the younger persons have actually begun growing fruits and vegetables, often producing a surplus. Now, the Friday market at Mapusa is followed by Farmers’ markets on Saturdays at Taleigao, Sundays in Calangute, Mondays in Margao and Tuesdays in Saligao. Media support has made the sharing of learning and experiences possible.
A bit of agricultural content was added to community festivals. A talk on fruits as a source of vitamins and minerals, or the benefits of fresh, homegrown chilies, salad greens or vegetables or demonstrations on how to grow plants was added to the Sao Joao that became the ‘Ponnsachem Fest’ and gave rise to the ‘Patoiechem Fest’ that drew attention to rice, coconut and turmeric. For three years running, the Nirmala Institute of Eduction, Altinho, has hosted the ‘Abolianchen Fest’ that showcases heritage, specially Goa’s agrarian culture. This year, Sanjay Special Education Centre, Porvorim, is introducing the ‘Maddamchem Fest’ on February 8 at 10 a.m. Earlier, its students learnt gardening from the students of agriculture in Goa.
A few years ago, we made an inter-generational shift with young students of agriculture doing the demonstrations. Instead of the mere appreciation of the knowledge and skills of a few veterans, the youth have brought in a ‘Can Do’ attitude that exemplifies that ‘if these twenty-somethings can do this, so can we’. It is this attitude that is a winner. Fresh graduate, Priyanka Parab reinforced this with a demonstration in grafting and layering at the ‘Muzgachem Fest’ hosted by National Association for the Blind at Santa Cruz last weekend.
It is good to see surplus vegetables grown in the villages and towns across Goa getting channeled into local farmers’ markets. No, I am not inclined to certify that they are ‘organic’ the way IFOAM defines the term. However, the fact remains that this is insecticide-free, locally grown fresh vegetable that would qualify as NPM or ‘non-pesticide management’ produce. As my friend, Frederick Noronha says: “Perfection is the enemy of good.” We have to work with the good and make it better.
The ‘Made in Saligao’ that started with hand-made items, bakes and jams and closed in December with Christmas goodies, restarted in 2020 to include farm-fresh vegetables, eggs and even poultry. It is a pleasure to see it grow with genuine village pride. May this be the shape of things to come in every village across Goa. We also need the likes of the Goan Farmers’ Market becoming a fixed Sunday event every month at least. Its next edition is on February 9 from 4 p.m. at Arjuntree One, Margao. Come and be a part of the experience of Goa growing greener.