THE state agriculture department has enrolled 25,000 farmers under the Soil Health Card Scheme and issued cards to 23,000 of them. Though the scheme was flagged off by the Prime Minister in February 2015, the state did not enroll any member till a year after the launch. The scheme is aimed at promoting soil test based and balanced use of fertilizers to enable farmers realise higher yields at lower cost. Samples of soil from a farmer’s field are tested in soil testing laboratories. Depending on the soil quality, experts suggest measures to deal with the strengths and weaknesses (micro-nutrients deficiency) of the soil. The state has approximately 28,000 hectares of land under paddy cultivation and the figure has remained stagnant for the last three years. Since the state receives very high rainfall which makes the soils acidic and deficient in various nutrients as well as minerals essential for healthy crop and production, a proper guidance would go a long way in improving yield. The success of some farmers could prompt others to venture into agriculture or revive it.
Soil health cards have benefited farmers in other states. Oil seed yield has increased by 66 per cent due to balanced use of inputs and the cost of producing paddy reduced by 25 per cent in the country. It remains to be seen how fast Goa’s agriculture department moves in implementing the scheme. Agriculture has been on the decline in the state over the last several decades and there is need to reverse the trend at earliest not only to attain self-sufficiency in food production but also to ensure that the agricultural fields are not turned into concrete jungles. Agriculture is considered un-remunerative due to high costs. Higher and more assured agricultural production with lower costs can go a long way in luring back farmers and youth back to the farms.
Though the state has been making efforts to increase agricultural production through implementation of various schemes, it has not helped in luring people back to the fields. Despite over a dozen government schemes, many still consider agriculture un-remunerative and shy away from tilling their fields, because they are not able to avail the benefits under the schemes. The introduction of mechanised farming devices has helped a majority of farmers in low-lying and plain areas to cut down labour costs but not every farmer has been able to derive the benefit. The farmers having their fields in uplands are forced to use traditional methods of cultivation even in these days of mechanised farming. The state government would have to come out with schemes to help the farmers cultivating their farms in hilly terrains. The newly notified ‘development of manures and fertilizers scheme’ is a right step for helping the farmers. This scheme along with soil analysis scheme, which is aimed at helping farmers in determination of soil fertility status and improvement, would help farmers to effectively use organic fertilizers and produce renewable energy. This in turn would help the farmers reverse impact of chemical fertilizers used over the years and restore the fertility of the soil in the long run.
The government in order to promote agriculture in a big way should work to bring down the cost of cultivation. Though there are several schemes to help the farmers, not all the farmers in the state are aware of them. The agriculture department needs to reach out to the farmers and take the schemes to them, rather than asking the farmers to visit the offices concerned to avail the benefits. If the implementation of schemes is made farmer friendly there is possibility of more people who have left their land fallow returning to revive their activities. While the government has given soil health cards to 23,000 farmers, it should work towards covering all of them soonest. It is not enough just to have schemes to promote agriculture. The department officials should visit the farms regularly and monitor the activities of the farmers. Besides, the data collected should be fed into computers for easy access and analysis so that the same could be used for future policy making. The farmers in the state and the authorities should work towards self-sufficiency in types of agriculture produce that can be grown here rather than relying on imports. If the government schemes are properly implemented there is possibility of Goa, which receives abundant rain, beating the odds in agriculture production and emerging as an exporter of agricultural products.