Sweet taste of Goan jaggery

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Even though the world is fast moving forward towards globalization and modernization, there are pockets where the old way of life continues and no complaints about it.

The remote, interiors of Goa is where some of the past lifestyle can be seen. Residents from villages in the hinterland especially from the tribal community are still continuing with making sugarcane jaggery in the traditional way.

For last more than eight days residents of Quiscond, a village under Barcem- Khedem panchayat, Quepem taluka are busy in production of jaggery. Elderly people in the village say that 15-20 years back every household used to cultivate sugarcane and produce jaggery. Today however few families are still continuing the business.  

The process of jaggery production is very interesting and is no less than any art. Knowledge of making such sugarcane jaggery will not be found in books, but is inherited from one generation to the next.

To have a look at the process; after the sugarcane harvesting is complete the cut cane stalks are all bundled and brought to the area known as ghane khal. A temporary shelter is constructed for the purpose in fields especially near farms where sugarcane cultivation takes place. Juice is extracted using a juice-extracting machine which is mostly hired. The liquid is poured into big iron pans and churned for several hours till it reaches a golden yellow colour and becomes thick.   

The thickened juice is then poured into a shallow square pit.

When the jaggery is cooled it is transferred to containers. Traditionally, the ready jaggery was stored in mud pots. However with changing times the mud pots are replaced with plastic containers. The production of traditional jaggery is carried out in the village continuously for several days till all the sugarcane which is brought for the purpose is utilized.

It is interesting to note that the jaggery which is prepared traditionally is mostly for self consumption. Some farmers also sell the extra production when asked for, which is priced approximately above Rs 120 per kg.

Another item is also prepared from the process is kakaam, a liquid form of jaggery, which has medicinal importance.

There is huge demand for locally prepared jaggery in the markets. However since the occupation is losing attractiveness due to various reasons the production has decreased over the years.

Elder villager Sonu Velip from Quiscond, who is busy in preparing jaggery, informs that though sugarcane cultivation requires hard work, some families have still continued with the tradition occupation. “We are not selling jaggery in the market. But, if someone asks then only we sell,” he said. He further said that, the practice of making jaggery is being continued   as it is a traditional occupation of the village although it is not economically viable.

Another villager, Ram Velip said that there are many problems for continuing with making jaggery the old way. The main difficulty is in cultivating sugarcane due to lack of proper water supply in the farms. He also revealed that, animals like wild boar, bison are destroying the sugarcane crops.

Jaggery that is available in the state markets and presently consumed mainly comes from outside states. It is sold in blocks and the machine-made taste is not comparable to the local jaggery. It would be great if the traditional way of making jaggery is preserved albeit in an upgraded version so that it becomes economically viable

to villagers.

Fostering unity

When one visit the sugarcane jaggery making site, one unique thing can be seen is unity among the villagers. If you take instance of Quiscond village, over 15 families so far are involved in this age-old traditional occupation. Some families have one or two male members. This process of making jaggery right from harvesting sugarcane to make final product requires manpower. But in the absence of male members villagers are good enough to help each other. The villagers ensure their presence at site till the completion of process even if takes 10 or 15 days. Age-old tradition is classic example of unity among the villagers and maintaining the culture of helping each others.

Medicinal benefits

Jaggery prepared in the age-old traditional way has many benefits. Consuming it helps to keep blood flowing in the body system. Jaggery is one of the best natural cleansing agents for the body. Villagers say that, eating jaggery removes unwanted particles from the body and also cleans the respiratory tract, lungs, intestines, stomach and food pipe.

Potential for hinterland tourism

There are many age-old traditional occupations in the villages which can become the USP of hinterland tourism. Making of sugarcane jaggery tradition is one among them. If the government wants to divert the tourists from sun- sea- and- sand to hinterlands then it must ensure that various age-old traditional occupations are showcased and made the centre of attractions for visitors. The idea will not only boost hinterland tourism, but  also help to drive meaningful economic activity in rural Goa.