As the coronavirus pandemic has put many livelihoods off-track, the tourism-dependent economy of the state has turned to various other occupations, many going back to their roots of farming and agriculture.
Goa has always been rich with its paddy fields, however, over the last decade, we have seen many leaving behind fields in search of other occupations, either within Goa’s then blossoming tourism sector or abroad middle-Eastern countries.
The pandemic however has turned tables around, and many, with no other options at hand, have decided to go back to their family fields. Many youths too have been at the forefront of this revolution to bring fallow fields back to life.
Goa has always been predominantly dependent on labour workforce from neighbouring states for many of its farming needs, but this pandemic has placed opportunities for Goan youth to educate themselves on several of the farming practices; and when mastered, it could be a plenteousness skill in one’s pocket.
With several young lads taking to farming, the time for harvesting has arrived, and anticipating labour shortage, a unique initiative was earlier launched wherein Goan youth were given training about the harvester machines and its controls. Also, lessons of maintenance of the harvester machines were also given.
The state’s Agriculture Department had initiated this process and 17 youth from South Goa completed it. By the first week of October, another 22 youth from North Goa will have successfully completed their training also.
Over the years, to cut down labour costs, many farmers have been shifting from manual harvesting to machine-based, and this has prompted many of these youth to garner skills to help local Goans around.
The lockdown and unavailability of laborers to man the harvesters are what prompted the Agriculture department officials to take up this interesting exercise.
“Goan farmers had a terrible time to harvest the paddy during the lockdown earlier this year. The service providers had the harvesters but no men to operate them. We realized the deficiency of skilled manpower in the state since most of the operators were hailing from across the borders,” said Nevil Alphonso, State Agriculture Director.
This comes as a welcome step by many who claim that empowering local lads with skills will go a long way in helping small farmers in the state survive and make ends meet over the years.
“This surely is going to benefit many in the years to come as we will have our very own Goan lads to run harvester machines,” opined a local resident.
These efforts have also been recognised by the Deputy Chief Minister and state Agriculture Minister Chandrakant Kavlekar who appreciated all the initiatives undertaken by the department’s officials.
Also, in a bid to promote local farming, the Agriculture Department is contemplating to set-up vegetable and fruit procurement centers in villages to help local farmers sell their produce.
Earlier this week, a government-backed study laid down several measures for the state to help revive its economy through various agricultural measures. Short term measures include simplification of the Krishi card process, direct procurement of vegetables from farmers, e-marketing of rural produce, the revival of water bodies, and training for setting up piggeries, goat rearing, and rabbit farming. The long-term goals included the construction of sluice gates, encouraging contract farming, and enactment of a contract farming law.
Meanwhile, with the heavy rainfall over the last week, nearly 287 hectares of paddy cropland have been damaged this season, the department said.
Also, farmers have been urged to register to obtain a Krishi card which simplifies the process of availing compensation for agricultural losses.