15 Apr 2024  |   06:35am IST

Small-scale farming, big impact:

Divya Ravichandran & Inchara Shanthappa transformed dead soil into a tiny, thriving oasis
Small-scale farming, big impact:

ERWIN FONSECA

ASSAGAO: Water is life. Nothing can exist without it. Water makes up a major part of our planet and our bodies. Without water, there would be no vegetation. That’s why during the harshest summer months of April and May, agricultural activity in Goa slows down, as water becomes scarce. But two agriculture enthusiasts, Divya Ravichandran and Inchara Shanthappa, who proudly call themselves Neo-Goans, are ready to change that. They want to show Goan farmers that with proper water management, agriculture can flourish year-round, yielding rich dividends.

About a year ago, Inchara Shanthappa, a student of botany, chemistry, and biotechnology, met Divya Ravichandran, an expert in solid waste management. Both shared a common goal: turning solid waste into compost and combating plastic pollution. With a small piece of land from a generous farmer in Assagao, the duo began their farming project. The soil however was dead, lacking microorganisms and water retention capacity. But they didn’t import any new soil; instead, they nurtured the plot meticulously for six months. They treated it with kitchen waste and organic materials, building up enriched soil layers. “We generate lots of kitchen waste and throw it out rather than using it to liven up our soil and plants . We are at an age where we want an easy lifestyle and have adopted an attitude of just ‘use and throw’, which is very bad,” said Inchara, adding that they only brought in twigs, dry leaves, goat dung, wood chips and powder or husk to rejuvenate the soil. Then, they planted seeds, ensuring daily care to keep the soil moist.

Divya emphasises that farming isn’t just about planting seeds and applying fertilisers; it’s a deep science connected to nature. Inchara stresses the importance of maintaining ecological balance, advocating for natural farming practices that preserve biodiversity. “Using chemical pesticides and insecticides disturbs the entire ecosystem and plays into the hands of corporations,” she remarks.They built raised beds of enriched soil around three metres high, and planted tomatoes, pumpkins, and ash gourds. Despite initial challenges, their efforts paid off; the ash gourd vines bore 20 fruits. “Once we are done with ash gourd, we hope to cultivate pumpkins, and after that, bitter gourd and long beans, all in the same area. Since the beds is raised, we don’t see any threat of water logging even during heavy rains,” said Divya.

The two young women lament humanity’s disconnect from nature, advocating for a return to sustainable living. They urged people to compost kitchen waste and embrace biodegradability, emphasising the need to live in harmony with nature. With proper planning and commitment, they believe every Goan family can cultivate a small plot of land like theirs, which is only 10 sq metres, grow upto 20 different vegetables, and enjoy fresh produce all year-round. “One doesn’t need a large farm to be a farmer; every Goan can cultivate their own land and reap the rewards,” they quip.

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