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Begin the year with family farming

Miguel Braganza

Happy New Year 2019 and welcome to the United Nations ‘Decade of Family Farming 2019-28’. The Rome-based Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of UN celebrates World Food Day on October 16 every year with a different theme. The year 2014 was the International Year of Family Farming, 2015 was the International Year of Soil and it was followed by the International Year of Pulses in 2016. The year 2017 was dedicated to Sustainable Tourism for Development. The Government of India’s Ministry of Agriculture had proposed that the year 2018 be dedicated to millets but no formal decision was taken by FAO on this request. It has, however, dedicated an entire decade to family farming as this is the only way to sustain both, the world’s population and the environment.

The Ilha Verde Farmers’ Club in Santo Estevao island has shown that community farming can be done in Goa. It is a scale–up on what happened with the Chodan-Maddel Farmers’ Club of Chorao island. These examples need not remain as “island in the sun” and the message of family and community farming can be spread to everyone. One can farm for one’s own family as Rosy and Peter Fernandes do through permaculture in Assagao or Neeno and Peter Singh do through aquaponics in Dona Paula or Laban D’ Souza does it his way at Kirbhat-Nuvem, not far from the groups of farmers who grow rice in the monsoons and vegetables in winter for themselves and for sale along the Eastern bypass from Nuvem to Raia. There are many others doing family farming in Goa, some of whom we have seen over the last seven years at the Organic Kitchen Garden competition of the Botanical Society of Goa each January

Rice, wheat and maize or corn are the two cereals that dominate the world market. The international Rice-Wheat Consortium (RWC) and the CIMMYT (a Spanish language acronym for the International Institute for improvement of Wheat and Corn) promote these three cereals almost to the exclusion of millets. However, the fact remains that millets are gluten-free, have low glycemic index, and are rich in protein, crude fiber and minerals like iron, phosphorus and zinc. Some millets like finger millet or ragi are also rich in calcium. As a result, millets promote better bone and teeth development, reduce anaemia and help tackle lifestyle problems like obesity and diabetes. There are very small pockets of land where nachini or ragi is presently cultivated in Goa. We need to expand it through family farming.

Almost every house in Goa has one or more coconut trees. It yield coconuts for the curry, tender coconut when needed in summer or when convalescing, specially from enteric or gastric ailments. The leaves are used for thatch, for protecting walls from the monsoons or for decoration. The trunk is timber for the rafters and for footbridges across storm-water nallahs. The mango is a tasty fruit and its leaves are used on auspicious occasions. The banana is another ubiquitous fruit. All these can be integrated in a family farm with rice, ragi, pulses and vegetables. Let us explore these possibilities from the very first year of the FAO decade of family farming.

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