29 Sep 2023  |   04:42am IST

Framing a new agriculture policy for Goa

The latest amendments approved by the Government allows construction of farm houses and roads in the paddy fields which is sounding the death knell of agriculture in Goa
Framing a new agriculture policy for Goa

Visitacao B. Monteiro

The Agriculture Department has invited suggestions for framing a new Agriculture Policy for Goa. Any new policy needs a lot of study, inputs, interaction, before the final draft to be kept for public scrutiny for it’s finalization. Also no agriculture policy can be finalized before the land use policy of the State is in place, which we have not yet notified in Goa. 

Goa has been famous for agriculture from millennia of years. Goan agriculturalists have developed agriculture in many places in the past where they were invited by the Rajas and Maharajas of the time. They have replicated the khazan lands in the backwaters of Kerala and some parts of Karnataka with bunds and sluice gates thus reclaiming vast lands for agriculture. Due to the Ganvkari system Goa has been in the past a model state in agriculture. 

This multi-millennial agriculture system was destroyed with the introduction of the Agricultural Tenancy Act, 1964 and it’s subsequent amendments. The truth of my assertion needs no proof. It is evident from the declining figures of agriculture production from 1965 till date where it stands reduced to a mere 3%. So, without analyzing the past and taking into account the present situation any future agriculture policy is bound to fail. 

The agriculture policy cannot be uniform for the whole of Goa. Variations are to be formulated according to the types of agricultural land available in Goa for paddy and other cultivation. In Goa, we have three types of land for paddy cultivation --Morod, Kher and Khazans. Different crops can be raised on those lands during the year depending on the availability of water. Rabi crops are also grown in many talukas. Besides there are Borod lands, wetlands, plateaus and hilly lands. Millets and other cereals such as ragi, kullit, etc were also raised in these lands.

Agriculture which has been unproductive and unsustainable due to high cost of labour has to use modern agricultural tools and machinery. Besides the general policy, agriculture policy should be framed for every village with its peculiarities in agriculture such as chilies in Canacona, strawberries in Sanguem, brinjals in Taleigao, bananas in Moira, watermelons in Parra, seven rigged ladyfingers in Jua, avocados in some villages, etc. 

The former Portuguese Government in order to make agriculture flourish in Goa had engaged an agricultural technician from the University of Agriculture, Pune, by name Rau Bahadur G K Kelkar who after visiting and revisiting each and every Ganvkari / community village and taluka of Goa for a period of three years, after studying their peculiarities in agriculture had prepared and submitted a report entitled: ‘Relatorio sobre os melhoramentos agricolas dos campos comunais de Goa’ (Report about the agriculture improvements of community paddy fields in Goa). Incidentally this important report prepared in 1923 completes a century this year. It has been implemented to a great extent during Portuguese rule in Goa.

In this report he expressly mentions the Ganvkari or Comunidade villages as the main promoters of agriculture in Goa and he even says that J I de Loyola mentions in his book in 1896 that 426 community villages or Ganvkaris existed in Goa being 145 in Old Conquests and 281 in New Conquests and had suggested what crops, plantations are suitable to each village or talukas of Goa. If the Agriculture Policy is to be framed and implemented this report would be of great help, although the agricultural land conditions have changed during the last century. 

The Government has been announcing various schemes to revive agriculture in Goa like community agriculture, agriculture clubs, etc but none of them have worked so far. It is a waste of time and tax payers money. There is a vast difference between the concept of community agriculture of today and community agriculture under ganvkari system of yester years. Just getting people together to grow paddy with use of modern agricultural techniques and implements does not constitute community agriculture. Community agriculture was ingrained in Goan farmers but after 1964 the agricultural plots allotted to families became sub-divided into further small plots due to the hereditary nature of the Tenancy Act and agriculture became unviable, compounded with the induction of salt water due to the purposeful breaches in the bunds by use of gelatins for breeding fish for illegal profits of a few including some Mamlatdars.

If Goa has to see the revival of agriculture the following steps may be necessary:

1. Hand back the management of agriculture to the respective communities or Comunidades and subsidize them till it falls in place.

2. Repeal The Agricultural Tenancy Act 1964. It has become obsolete with the passage of time of nearly 60 years and has failed to meet its aim. Even the Constitution of India is clear that laws enacted due to certain circumstances prevalent at the time of their enactment can be changed if the circumstances have changed.

3. Relocate the wild animals which are playing havoc with agriculture and horticulture.

4. Teach children agriculture in schools giving them marks. Schools should have land reserved for the purpose.

5.Teach, encourage and finance various old professions such as apiculture, sericulture, mushroom culture, pisciculture, coconut jaggery making, etc. 

The latest amendments approved by the Government allows construction of farm houses and roads in the paddy fields which is sounding the death- knell of agriculture in Goa. The Government instead of becoming the protector of the Ganvkari system of agriculture has become the destroyer of the same. When one destroys a multi-millennial system it is very difficult to reconstruct it. One should remember the famous words of Serra and Moura, an authority in the law and Ganvkari system: “to raise to the ground that centuries-old edifice with a hammer of destruction is easy. But, to raise on its ruins a more perfect and better-finished work, a work resulting in greater glory to the architect and greater advantage to the inhabitants of the villages is a very difficult task.”[Gomes Pereira , 1981]

I hope this article will help to some extent in the revival of agriculture in the State of Goa to regain its past glory.

(The author is a well known columnist and author of the book ‘Goan Village Communities’)


Iddhar Udhar