The farmers are facing multiple challenges – natural and manmade. Agriculture in Goa had once been the most common occupation with nearly 70 percent of the population involved in different farming activities. But with issues like climate change, non-availability of labour and high wages, farming has become uneconomical in the State.
Also, the youth is moving towards seeking white collar jobs and are not inclined to soil their hands and feet in the muddy paddy fields. All these factors have made the fields fallow.
To change the tide and make farming attractive once again, the government introduced Community Farming scheme in the State. According to the farmers, this scheme has motivated them to get back to their fields with renewed vigour and revive the otherwise fledging occupation.
“We had stopped cultivating our fields after a portion of it was acquired for national highway and affected our fields. But the community farming scheme gave us a boost to continue farming,” said Pratap Pednekar, a farmer from Galgibaga.
He said that for the last three years he is cultivating paddy and has produced 900 quintals of rice.
“We even cultivated black rice once. I want to appeal to youth not to go after white collar jobs but to take up farming by availing various government schemes,” Pednekar said.
Pandurang Gaonkar, farmer from Thane, Sattari, said that farmers were facing a lot of difficulties due to fragmentation of land holdings.
“Secondly our crops were getting damaged by wild animals. Three years ago 28 of us came together and formed a community farming group with the support from Sattari zonal agricultural office. We availed the scheme and first did chain-link fencing for our fields. We are now cultivating paddy and mostly horticulture on seven hectares of land,” Gaonkar said.
Mangesh Gaonkar, a farmer from Gaondongrim, Canacona, said, “We came together and formed a community farming group so that we got more area for cultivation. By availing government schemes, we did fencing and prevented our crops from getting damaged by wild animals.”
“We are cultivating paddy and other horticulture crops. Many farmers from Canacona taluka are now forming community farming groups,” he added.
Atul Raikar, a farmer from Pollem, Canacona, said that three years ago, a group of 13-14 farmers came together and started community farming.
Raikar further said that all the farmers are cultivating paddy on land admeasuring 25,000 square metres.
According to Director of Agriculture Nevil Alphonso, the major advantages of community farming are effective use of available resources and infrastructure thereby saving on cost of creating resources or infrastructure for individual farmers.
Unlike fencing individual plots for protection of his crop, the community farming group can fence the outer periphery of a block of fields. There is also reduction in nuisance for moving material and machinery due to obstructions of individual fencing.
“There is effective use of labourers and agricultural activity is more economically viable since it is taken on a community basis. Also there will be effective marketing of produce and expertise of members can be utilised for the benefit of the entire group,” said Alphonso.
In community farming groups, there is efficient use of machineries. Whenever machinery is purchased by an individual farmer, after finishing his work, the machinery remains idle. The machinery like power tiller, weed cutter, etc purchased in the name of community farming group can be shared among the member farmers for carrying out farm operations.
The community farming group can undertake works like desilting of ponds and drainage channels, repair of bund and repair or creation of road or passage for transportation of machinery and farm produce, construction of threshing and drying yard, etc.
As individual farmers faced difficulties in cultivating the land due to various factors such fragmentation of land, high cost involved in creating infrastructure such as agricultural machineries and high cost of manual labour, the government implemented community farming scheme form 2020-2021.
In the first year, only three groups availed the scheme. But in the last four years, the number of community farming groups have increased to 57, the highest 34 being in Canacona taluka and 10 in Sattari taluka.
Till date, an amount of Rs 146.09 lakh has been disbursed to 40 community farming groups.
Alphonso said that the government has been providing 90 per cent subsidy to community farming. The subsidy is limited to Rs 2.50 lakh per hectare, irrespective of area covered by the community farming group.
One of the eligibility criteria is that the community farming group would have to submit an undertaking stating that it would carry on agricultural activities in the area under the project for at least 10 years from date of availing benefits.
The community farming can be undertaken as Joint Community Farming and Loosely Amalgamated Community Farming. Under Joint Community Farming, entire area of all the members together will be cultivated as one block in the name of the group i.e. all expenditure for creating infrastructure, one-time costs and cultivation costs (recurring expenses).
The produce will also be sold in the name of the group and the proceeds proportionately shared among farmer members as per terms and conditions agreed at the time of group formation.
Under Loosely Amalgamated Community Farming, a community farming group is formed with the intention to create permanent infrastructure such as fencing, creation of irrigation infrastructure, etc and the cost of infrastructure is borne in the name of the group.
Cultivation of crops is carried out by individual farmers or group members in their field on their own cost and the produce is also sold by individual farmers.