A drive from Mapusa to Panaji seems different today. Compared to the last few years, the fields on either side of the road that have been fallow for years have now been ploughed. The loss of jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector, plus the return of seafarers and NRIs, is doing to the coastal talukas what the stoppage of mining in 2012-13 did to the hinterland.
By the sweat of thy brow though shall earn thy rice. Only those in government service or government-aided institutions and corporations have some job security. Otherwise, only those in the production and manufacturing sectors are assured of work and of pay. The fields have come alive to the sounds of machinery and bullock pairs ploughing the land again.
The Goan palate is sold on to the taste of red kernel Jyothi and Jaya rice varieties. Jyothi is ready for harvest in about four months or 115 to 125 days. Jaya matures in 135 to 145 days. Depending on the moisture in the soil during the months of October and November, the farmers in a village choose one of the two varieties. Except for the salt-tolerant korgut in the khazan lands, most of the heirloom varieties of rice like asgo, damgo, jirasal, kochri, patni, sotti, etc have long been forgotten – except for a seed bank in Mayem-Sikeri, the ICAR-CCARI at Ela, Old Goa and a few farmers.
Rice breeder at ICAR-CCARI, Old Goa, K Manohara, had earlier purified the local Korgut rice and released two strains: the white kernel, dwarf, non-lodging Goa Dhan-1 which can be mechanically harvested by combine harvesters and the red kernel, tall, lodging Goa Dhan-2 that has to be manually harvested. Both these strains have proved to be tolerant of flood and submergence for a week or longer. Now, the korgut variety has also been cross-pollinated with a popular variety Jyothi to obtain red kernel dwarf variety suitable for combine harvesters. The Goa Dhan-4, a cross of Jyothi and Korgut (JK), is being grown by the farmers in Curtorim and Santa Cruz this year. It can be mechanically harvested by a combine harvester.
The attitude of the teachers, parents and the students is bound to change when the NRIs, seafarers and hospitality professionals go back to their fields and grow their own crops as the erstwhile mining dependents have done since 2013. Even the most obstinate among them have now returned to their roots. All others, who are demanding a “compensation package” from a government, that has run bankrupt due to dwindling tax revenues, will soon realise that they are sucking a dry breast. Food is something we need from breakfast and lunch to dinner. Growing food is an honourable profession that needs young professionals. The sale of rice seeds, like that of vegetable seeds earlier, has gone through the roof this year. It is a sign that Goa will become greener. There is genuine pride in being a farmer again. It is a noble profession.