Choked nullahs block Taleigao vegetable farmers’ efforts at agriculture

The season for horticulture has just begun, but the farmers of Taleigao panchayat, who at this time of year are in the midst of preparation for vegetable cultivation, are finding the going tough, thanks to poor condition of the fields.

Several fields in the region are still logged with water, an unusual sight since water level starts receding from late September after which the land is fit for growing vegetables.

Mr Madhukar Kerkar, a farmer in Shankerwadi, Taleigao said, "The land is water logged not because of monsoons, but because old nullahs that normally drain out water into the sea are blocked." He pointed that his field has turned infertile as it is slushy in parts and three feet under water in some other places, thus rendering it unfit for cultivation.

Traditional water outlets are jammed because of rampant construction that has taken place in the area. Most of the housing complexes have encroached on ploughing land, leaving the farmers hapless at the outcome. Directly opposite to Mr Kerkar’s field is an ongoing construction project, the builder of which has not made any provision for water to drain from the fields adjoining the construction.

Says Mr Xavier Almedia, president, Taleigao Farmers Club, "Saturated fields have become a norm this year with most farmers complaining of the same. This makes the efforts of the farmers, who are getting their fields ready for cultivation, a waste of time and a futile exercise, as farmers who commenced planting are not getting proper results resulting in monetary losses."

According to members of the Framers’ club, the only solution to this water saturation problem is de-silting the St Inez creek, into which the smaller nullahs empty. The irrigation department, members point, has helped with de-silting of the village nullahs, but the main culprit is the choked St Inez creek, thanks to which the water from the smaller nullahs is not able to flow into.

There are 100-odd farmers in Taleigao, who continue with farming as a traditional occupation, despite the area undergoing rapid urbanisation in recent years. Says Mr Shriram Dhaimodkar, zonal agriculture officer, Tiswadi taluka, "Farmers in the region are active in their occupation. Farming is seasonal with the two main seasons being the rainy (Khariff) and the winter (Rabi) months." Mr Dhaimodkar added, "Khariff is devoted to paddy, but Rabi season is 100 per cent for planting a range of vegetables which cater to the demands of the Panaji market."

Adds, Mr Thomas Viegas, whose field is located opposite to Vasant Vihar Housing Colony, "Cultivation of vegetables requires that the land is prepared first. It needs to be tilled and dry after which, we add the nutrients." Pointing to a pile of fish, manure and ash in the corner of the field, Mr Veigas says, "Using it on wet soil is of no use as my ‘tambdi bhaji’ and chillies have not turned out well."

Another farmer, Mr Francisco Almeida says, "I have hired a tractor at `350 per hour, but I doubt whether this time I will get a good harvest of vegetables."

The other problem farmers in the area face is that of garbage being dumped in the fields by resident of the many housing colonies in the area. It is especially thick near the boundary walls, leading to pest attacks on the crops.

Farmers in Taleigao grow lady fingers, bottle gourd, chillies, palak, cluster beans and the famed Taleigao vangi. Says Mr Kerkar, "In the past, we used to even grow water melons, but this year we are not sure of even cultivating the regular vegetables." [NT]