With tourism hit by Covid-19, people in Goa return to farming, fishing to shore up incomes
With the Covid-19 pandemic expected to hit Goa’s tourism-dependent economy harder than initially thought, people across the state have begun to fall back on more traditional occupations such as agriculture and fishing in a bid to tide over the fall in their incomes.
The State Agriculture Department has reported more than four-fold increase in demand for seeds, mainly for planting vegetables.
“Usually we used to sell between 200-250 kilos of seed during this time of the year. But this year we have already sold 800 kilos of seed,” Nevil Alphonso Director of Agriculture said. “This is one of the clearest indicators that people are going back to agriculture in these times,” he added.
“The biggest demand has been for vegetable seed which can be grown multiple times. We are also seeing an increase in the demand for paddy but we will have to wait until the end of June to measure the increase in area under paddy cultivation -- Goa’s staple crop-- increases,” he added.
Vegetables offer the farmers a better price and, unlike rice, can be sold locally even in small quantities. There is demand mainly for vegetables like gourds, pumpkins and cucumbers which grow well during this season as well as beans and ladyfingers.
“At the end of the day, we have to do something to fill our stomachs. Some will go back to fishing, some will go back to farming,” said Damião Telles who used to once run a stall along the Candolim beach serving tourists.
Tourism being Goa’s biggest revenue-earner, a lot of people have left their traditional occupations like farming and fishing and joined the tourism industry, becoming taxi operators, small hotel owners, shack owners, watersports operators and guesthouse owners.
But with tourism now at a standstill due to coronavirus pandemic, these people are relying on their savings or going back to these traditional occupations to earn a living.
“We have been guiding and encouraging people to plant within their own backyards and kitchens or in whatever area they can find and teaching them techniques on what crops can be grown alongside others to help with the soil fixation,” Miguel Braganza a professor of agriculture said.
The arrival of the monsoons marks the sowing season in Goa much as in the rest of the country.
The Goa government has set up a task force to recommend an economic revival plan for each village that is being anchored by the Goa Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development and the Directorate of Higher Education.
In an initial document the committee has suggested all panchayats identify potential activities within the village which can provide livelihood to the people -- agriculture and allied activities, horticulture, poultry, dairy, fishing and reviving micro and small scale industries besides traditional livelihood options like artisans etc and a plan to process and market the products.
However, challenges remain. Some have complained about lack of cooperation from local panchayat authorities and support from the government to help cultivate lands some of which have been fallow for a few decades.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that he expects the slowdown in tourism to be temporary.
“Tourism may have dropped for now, but when tourism starts, Goa Tourism is in a better position to quickly rebound in comparison with the rest of the country and will scale new heights. We will bring in new concepts to promote tourism,” Sawant said.