Goa needs to prepare an innovative agricultural roadmap for growth
Heavy rainfall witnessed in the state last fortnight not only threw normal life out of gear but also caused widespread damage to standing crops, particularly paddy. The resultant loss to agriculture due to heavy rainfall has been pegged at Rs 10 crore.
Deputy Chief Minister Chandrakant Kavlekar has said that paddy crops of over 2,900 farmers from three talukas of North Goa district have been severely affected by rains. The problem was compounded with opening of gates of the Tillari dam by the Maharashtra government to release water to protect their fields and farmers, which led to a large volume of water gushing into fields downstream in the talukas of Pernem, Bicholim and Bardez.
The fury of nature of this magnitude has been witnessed for the first time in decades in Goa and is likely to leave behind enormous task of rebuilding by farmers as well as government agencies. The government has announced that it would pay compensation to affected farmers on priority for the losses they have suffered due to damage to crops. It is needless to say that the compensation should be not pittance and be commensurate with the losses suffered by farmers. The deluge-like situation and the losses suffered by farmers could impede the efforts of the government to put agriculture back on track. With agriculture becoming unprofitable, many farmers have abandoned it to switch over to other occupations which bring them better economic gains. Agricultural activities have been dwindling in the state and many fields have been left fallow, while numerous others converted to allow concrete structures to come up on them as they served economic interests of the cultivators.
The state government has failed to stem the trend. They are trying to generate interest with a number of incentives. At a time when farmers are beginning to see gains in commercial farming, the utter lack of protection to their fields from natural calamities is going to prove a setback. With nature becoming unpredictable due to adverse impact of global warming and climatic change, farmers would be ever more cautious before taking risks in agriculture. The state government has to make renewed efforts to win over farmers to the agricultural growth story.
The state government, after it has paid compensation to farmers affected by floods, has promised to start a number of initiatives to push agricultural growth. We will have to see what those initiatives are. The government’s announcement that it will encourage youth to take up farming might not generate much interest as such promises have proven to be no more than platitudes. With agriculture not giving good returns as other businesses do, the state government would have to come up with out-of-box ideas to attract youth towards agriculture.
One of the reasons for people giving up agriculture is non-availability and increasing costs of agricultural labour. Most youth in Goa hanker after government jobs, which are easy to get using influence of politicians. Agriculture is a hard job in which they have to put in long hours of work. Besides, agricultural landholdings in the state are too fragmented to make them commercially profitable on a farm-to-farm basis. There are plans for aggregating small and marginal farmers as farmers producers organisations (FPOs) but the work on it is moving very slowly.
The total losses suffered by farmers are estimated at Rs 10 crore. Will the government give the farmers full compensation of Rs 10 crore? Payment of inadequate compensation would be detrimental to the revival of agriculture. The government must give them suitable compensation. The government should realize that agriculture cannot be revived overnight and that it needs to come up with a long-term policy and implement it in letter and spirit to convince farmers that using modern agricultural techniques and aggregation of produce through FPOs could pay good dividends in the long run.
It is also necessary that farmers get finance or loans from banks and government agencies without hassles. There are several central government schemes which do not benefit Goan farmers for various constraints, including bureaucratic hurdles. The state government must prepare an innovative agricultural roadmap so Goan farmers can be part of the domestic and national farm growth story.