BY NANDKUMAR KAMAT
WE need not consult the World Bank, Planning commission or Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to find a solution to Goa’s rural unemployment. There are success stories right in front of us–in our own familiar countryside.
By demystifying these simple success stories which showcase people’s own micro-economic models of earning sustainable eco-friendly livelihood, excellent practical and feasible policies, plans and schemes can be drawn to promote existing employment and create more sustainable employment opportunities. If you need seasonal fresh farm produce, vegetables, beans, onions, local fruits, tubers, coconuts, shellfish and interesting varieties of fish (chonak, palu, ranwas, kalundara, shevate) do not visit the urban markets.
Take a trip/drive out to the nearest bypass outside Panaji, Mapusa, Ponda and Margao. At respectful distances you would find on both sides of the road, on the shoulders, temporary shades and stalls where local people mostly farmers would be seen displaying their commodities. They don’t hinder the traffic or block the road. The choice to stop and select what you want is entirely yours. Bargaining is a tradition and the customer really benefits. This informal trade- exclusively supply driven is managed by women. While it is fashion to talk of women’s empowerment, efforts of these toiling women have gone unnoticed and unrewarded. It is a prefect model of backward integration and forward direct marketing. The middlemen are excluded.
The four kms long Verna to Nuvem bypass might have sacrificed fertile paddy fields. But it is also conveniently located parallel to upstream stretches of Sal river and integrates a fertile farm and plantation belt between the hills and the Arabian sea.
As soon as the bypass was thrown open to traffic, the local farmers sensed the opportunity. Farmers from eight villages in Marmagoa and Salcete talukas have converted it into their cash feeding lifeline. This is not marketing economy based exclusively on surpluses. Last year I purchased excellent Mankurad Mangoes on Verna bypass. On enquiry I found that these women sell all the mangoes from their own orchards on the bypass. Sale of surpluses are limited to coconuts, vegetables and fruits like bananas. More than hundred families depend on this bypass for earning their livelihood. This number grows heftily during the tourist season. Business comes down during the monsoon.
The three kms long newly opened Siridao to Agacaim bypass runs parallel to the bank of Zuari River and is integrated well in the sandy, silty stretch of farmland. This belt is famous for vegetables and sweet potatoes (kongyo). When it was opened for traffic there were just one or two farmers selling their produce. My recent survey showed more than 50 roadside stalls. Goa’s largest and tastiest crabs –Khadapi Kullyo are now sold in basketfuls on this byepass. A pair fetches ` 150. Small lots of rarest varieties of clams and mussels are sold at premium prices.
My survey showed that on the Verna to Nuvem bypass annually 50-60 varieties of locally produced commodities are sold. Between Khorlim-Old Goa to Farmagudi more than 60-80 varieties of agro-horticultural commodities are sold. On Siridao-Agacaim bypass the number of commodities is slowly rising. Coconut oil, toddy and jaggery are latest introductions. Amateur anglers from Agacaim and Cortalim who read the movement of fish in Zuari River like experts also have a share of this market. A pair of foot long chonak is sold for ` 500. “On a single day, if I get a good catch-I can easily make ` 2-3000”, a local angler told me. We can imagine the potential of this nutrient rich estuary where anglers have bagged Salmons (ranwas) weighing 30-40 kgs.
The stakeholder departments and agencies-agriculture, horticulture corporation, fisheries, co-operation have failed to study this phenomenon and come out with imaginative incentives and support packages. Village panchayats also have no interest in boosting such economy. Chilli farmers of Goa can create tremendous wealth if the government comes out with a package to promote the 29 local chilli varieties. All of these deserve geographical indicated product (GIP) registration. Elite and rare varieties of Goan chillies can be sold on roadside stalls. Some of these varieties–Kholachi mirsang, Chandelche barik butao, Mandrechi mirasang, Harmalache butao, Calvichi kali mirasang, Dhangari mirasang, Purtugali mirasang, Taligaonche battoo, Cuncolechi mirasang can get premium prices. But the focus is on promoting exotic hybrid chillies.
The seed, fertiliser and pesticide companies seem to decide what farmers in Goa would cultivate. Globalisation would further destroy what exists. The agriculture department and ICAR are more enthusiastic about supporting clandestine piracy of germplasm of local brinjals for research on transgenic brinjals sponsored by a multinational seed company. The Goa government has admitted that it has never thought about a policy on transgenic food crops or permitting their field trials in Goa. The Goa State Biodiversity Board has shut its’ eyes to biopiracy of the state’s priceless agrohorticultural genetic resources. Who would consume these transgenic brinjals in Goa? People are more interested in local cultivars of brinjals from Agacaim and Taleigao. Such unholy nexus would also aim to finish Goa’s genetic resources of Chillies and replace these with one or two hybrid cultivars. This is a global game where our officers have become naïve pawns.
On the whole planet only five families in Aldona, Bardez, have the seeds and knowledge of growing the Aldonechi moti kali mirasang. They do not receive any government support. They face numerous challenges and threats. Is it not the duty of agriculture department to support them when this variety fetches ` 1300 per kg in Panaji market? Goa’s local crops have been criminally neglected. It is a miracle that those who religiously cultivate the local vegetables, fruits and tubers do so without systematic and consistent government support. Besides, without any help in marketing and processing they take the initiative to develop their own markets.
It is duty of Goans who shout in the name of “Osmitai dis” to open their eyes and see how the last generation of Goa’s farmers is struggling to maintain the rural economy. Patronise and support the agricultural ‘osmitai’ of Goa.