United they grow


The state’s first initiative in community farming by residents of St Estevam village is in good hands, reports Shoma Patnaik

The current dry spell in peak monsoon season is worrying paddy farmers in the state. At green and beautiful St Estevam island where time seems to stand still, residents are eagerly awaiting the outcome of their first shot at community farming.

On-and-off rains spell trouble for paddy cultivation, but St Estevam residents are confident that their first effort at reviving agriculture in the village will yield results.

Sitting in the cool confines of the 450-year old St Estevam Church, priest Eusico Perreira, who played a major role in bringing the community together, is optimistic. “Everything will turn out well and we will once again be among the farming villages of Goa,” he says.

Sometime in early 2018 residents of St Estevam decided that they need to change the profile of their village from being just one of the beautiful villages of Goa which is dependent on jobs in ships, etc, to restoring the identity in farming.

They resolved to revive agriculture by cultivating the fallow khazan land, a decision that received wholehearted support from the agriculture department.

“After coming to know of their aim we decided to deploy mechanization in the community farm and showcase it as revival example,” says MV Prasanna Kumar, assistant director (engineering) department of agriculture. The department helped with the initial preparation of land and roped in service provider, Father George Quadros, Don Bosco, Sulcorna.

Tractors and transplanters were arranged for ploughing and transplanting. Three varieties of paddy have been planted in the field- Goa Dhan, RS-1 and Jyoti.

Resident Nestor Rangel, in the core group, says that, over 200 families came together to participate in the farming spread over 50 hectares of land that was lying fallow for over 25 years.  He adds that, residents were asked to contribute Rs 3.5 per meter of their land holding, of which some gave the full amount while the balance was chipped in by the rest. “The total expenditure on the farm works out to around Rs 10- 11 lakh and we are hopeful of recovering the investment,” he said.

Rangel  explains that, the average yield of paddy in the state is about 200 gram- 500 gram per sq. mtr, depending on the level of productivity  but the yield of the village community farm is likely to be in the range of 100 gram per sq. mtr. “WE are expecting a lower yield due to our lack of experience. In some palace we planted the wrong paddy variety,” he discloses.

Rangel adds that, the current on-off rain is not doing any good either. “It is increasing the growth of weeds and we have to employ labour for de-weeding. Rains would also have reduced the salinity of the land,” he says.

According to Rangel, the farm is likely to yield about 50,000 kg of rice which at the going rate of Rs 20 per kg could help in breaking even. He adds that, Dudush Jua, Shailendra Afonso, Ancil Gonsalves, Ashwin Varela are some of his fellow residenst who are played an important role in getting residents on board.

The department of agriculture is trying to increase the land under cultivation in the state by encouraging residents to take to farming. It is actively pushing mechanized farming so as to increase yield and offset the shortage of labour in the state. About three pilot projects in Bardez. Salcette have been initiated in 2018-19 season.

Mahesh J Bokade, mechanical cultivation officer, Panaji, points out that, “The St Estevam community farm is important because of its large size. At 50 hectares the farm can be categorized as a large holding.” The initiative is receiving subsidy from the agriculture department and guidance at all times,” he reveals. Check with villagers shows that, officials of the department have been regular in monitoring visits.

Residents of the village are gearing for the next season. The goal is to bring 100 hectares of land under cultivation which works out to half of the khazan land in the village that is fallow. Residents say that, next season they will start early. “In the ongoing season we started late. By the time we got the papers sorted and families agreed to the concept, it was late.” The preparatory work on the soil also took time as it was unused for a long time. The transplanting work commenced in June 2018 while it should have been completed by May, they said.