17 Jun 2024  |   05:59am IST

Vincent Condillac, the farmer pioneering solar power in Aldona

Vincent Condillac, the farmer pioneering solar power in Aldona

ERWIN FONSECA

ALDONA: After 15 years of working in Bahrain, Vincent Condillac decided one day that it was time to return to his roots. “We had a good family background and inherited a rich legacy from our ancestors. Many of our relatives are well-known, and our ancestors were highly regarded in society. I moved to Bahrain soon after I completed my education but after 15 years abroad, I decided to come down and look after our family properties as my parents were also getting old,” Vincent explains.

Though he had a good vision for his ancestral legacy, it was not all smooth sailing. “After clearing all legal tangles when the property where I am staying now actually became mine, it was hard work to build everything from scratch,” says Vincent. He recalls that the house was in shambles when he took over, and a vast land in front of his house was lying barren and threatened by encroachment. “With the support of my wife Maria and daughter Lara, I did up the house, brick-by-brick, and preserved all old things as I have a penchant for them. On the other side, I began cultivating the land and growing vegetables organically. Thereafter, I began raising hens, ducks, and fish, and adopting rescued stray dogs as I have a great liking for nature.”

Putting all these things in place consumed a lot of time, energy, patience, and money. “We required a lot of wood for our house which we bought at a very costly rate. Since we were determined to do organic farming, we went everywhere possible to get organic manure for our farm,” he recalls. Finally, when his house and farm saw the light of day, he was a relieved man. With the able assistance of his daughter, he created a mark for himself by being among the rare farmers growing food grains organically. “About 12-15 years back, when I started farming, organic farming was the norm. There have been instances where we have grown almost 30 different types of vegetables after treating the soil well, and there would be a rush to buy our vegetables,” Vincent, who is now in his late seventies, shares.

However, everything changed two years ago when porcupines started invading and destroying the crops. Despite repeated complaints to the Forest Department, no action was taken, and his fields were overrun with destructive porcupines. “When I started farming about 13 years back, things looked quite bright for me. I took up farming in a professional manner through drip irrigation to minimise water usage. Since I had a big farm, I couldn’t waste time watering it every day. Once I hired labourers, it became easy to get work done. But for the last two years, farming has been a non-lucrative business as porcupines come and feed on all my vegetables. The Forest Department has prohibited me from even trapping them. I just can’t understand the mentality and attitude of this government towards farmers. It’s just ridiculous. We are not killing porcupines, just trapping them, and even that, we are not allowed to do. So should we abandon farming? The Forest Minister and Agriculture Minister must reply to this,” he vents.

Unable to earn from such a big farm, Vincent was puzzled about how to generate income until a new opportunity presented itself. “Nothing was planned. Everything just happened. One day, a lady and her daughter visited my farm, and during our discussion, I discovered that her husband, Anant Kochar, was into the solar energy field. I was curious about it and assured her I would get back to him. I began consulting my family and well-wishers about the ideaa of installing solar panels. All were quite supportive, and then it was just the word ‘go’ for me,” he recalls.

Studying all aspects of solar lighting, Vincent, with the help of Kochar, installed 30 solar panels on his rooftop at a cost of Rs four lakh and switched his entire installation to solar. “If I have to switch over to solar, I thought I should switch over the entire installation. With Kochar’s help, I managed to do it. Now power failure is a thing of the past for me, and sometimes, I even get a zero bill.” As the 30 panels generate a high electricity output of 10KW, Vincent got his solar panels connected to the power grid. Whenever there is excess power generated, it feeds the grid, resulting in the government buying power from Vincent and paying him for it.

With this giant step, Vincent feels satisfied as he has created a mark for others to follow, demonstrating that it is easy to generate clean and green energy. He hopes others will follow suit.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar