Khazan farming makes comeback in Amona

 

VISHANT VAZE | NT
Khazans are prone to flooding by saline waters that usually surround these fields, in Goa’s tidal estuaries. To protect their fields, the forefathers had planned and built an intricate system of bunds (dykes) and the sluice gates,
 
which efficiently kept the saline water level to the required mark. The khazan land has been used by the locals to engage in agricultural activities. Sadly, today, this rich traditional agricultural system is on the verge of going into oblivion. However, the residents of the village in Amona, in Bicholim taluka, have maintained this unique tradition of cultivating khazan lands.
Almost 90 per cent of farmers from here used to cultivate paddy in khazan fields without using any kind of chemical fertilizer. However, during the last 15 years or so, farming here was severely affected as mining rejects and pollution had taken a toll on the fields. Mining silt had entered into the fields thereby reducing the fertility of the soil. Also, damage to the sluice gates and bunds had resulted in the fields being inundated by saline water, thereby making farming difficult if not impossible.
Amona village etymologically means the village of mangoes. It was predominantly an agricultural village which was self sufficient and also used to fulfill the rice requirements of the surrounding villages. Paddy farming here was basically on khazan farms.
Mr Jaywant Parab, president of khajans said, “For us, khajans sheti was the main source of livelihood. Our daily diet was fish-curry-rice as we used to get plenty of fish from the sluice gates. However today, there is a decrease in the amount of fish we used to get earlier.”
He said further that rising pollution and invasion of khazan fields by saline water, due to the cracks in the bunds, has resulted in the destruction of the khajan paddy fields.
He informed that Katar Khazan Tenant Association, has acquired land admeasuring 3, 41,725 sq mt for khazan farming in which around 90-95 farmers undertake this kind of farming. Uzaddo Wawtal Khazan area which admeasures 9,55,000 sq mt, has 80 farmers. Bhali Shet has 1,08,000 sq sq mt and 28 farmers; Unaye Khazan -2,75,000 sq mt and 62 farmers; Devache Katol -13,000 sq mt and and 8 farmers, Gharuche Katol – 4 farmers, Maye-Katar Sheti – 7 farmers and Devkhadi Khazan – 25,000 sq mt and 15 farmers.
Presently, all these above areas are being used for khazan paddy farming. For every khazan there is one sluice gate, however, Uzzaddo Khazan has two gates, informed Mr Parab. During high tide these sluice gates keep the water outside of the farm areas and during low tide these gates open so that fish along with the water can enter the streams where it is trapped. The variety of seeds used in paddy cultivation undertaken by farmers here includes Karangute, Shiddi, Nersar, Wali and Khotri.
Mr Parab said, “This unique tradition of cultivation has been maintained by all the khazan committees and every year we undertake maintenance work of this area. At present the tributary of river Mandovi which joins this area has been eroded into soil due to which the river water gets inside the Unaye Khazan causing damage to Katar and Uzzaddo kahzan also. The government should take initiative and give substantial financial support to protect this ancient and unique tradition of agriculture, said Mr Parab.  
He said that they make use of sentient system and swamps to construct bunds in order to protect the agricultural khajans fields. He said this is a unique system which protects environment and ecology and even today, this tradition is maintained.
Mr Gagaram Bholu Sinari of Ujaddo Khajan Committee said that nowadays it has become difficult for farmers to find manpower and this has led to a decrease of nearly 30 to 40 per cent in farming in khajan fields. The older generation of farmers from Amona village, Mr Sakharam Sinari, Mr Suresh Vaman Sinari and Mr Vishwanath Parab said that this Amona khajan is a golden land for rice crop, which does not required any kind of fertilizer. The rice of Shiddy is a unique kind of rice crop which is good for health and prevents individuals from diabetes and blood pressure and other diseases, said Mr Suresh Parab, who is cultivating bumper crop of this kind of rice every year.
Mr Suresh Parab, another farmer is of the opinion that the government should stop giving rice on ration cards to those who have farms but are not cultivating the same. He said, “If every farmer with a field cultivates the same, then Goa will be self sufficient in rice. Goa government has implemented different kinds of schemes to promote agriculture and therefore it is necessary that all the farmers should take the optimum benefits of these schemes,” said Mr Parab.
The Sanquelim MLA, Dr Pramod Sawant when asked to comment on the efforts of the Amona villagers to keep alive the tradition of khazan farming said that the government will provide all support and assistance to these deserving farmers. [NT]