With tourism dry­ing up, Goans fall back on farming, fish­ing

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - Ger­ard de Souza let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

PANAJI:Goa’s agri­cul­ture depart­ment has re­ported over four-fold in­crease in the de­mand for mainly vegetable seeds in April and May that of­fi­cials say in­di­cates peo­ple have be­gun to fall back upon their tra­di­tional sources of in­come to tide over the fall­out of the Covid19 pan­demic on the state’s tourism-de­pen­dent econ­omy.

“We used to sell be­tween 200250 ki­los of seeds dur­ing this time of the year. But this year, we have al­ready sold 800 ki­los,” said state agri­cul­ture depart­ment di­rec­tor Nevil Alphonso. “This is one of the clear­est in­di­ca­tors that peo­ple are go­ing back to agri­cul­ture in these times.”

He said the big­gest de­mand has been for vegetable seeds which can be grown mul­ti­ple times. Veg­eta­bles of­fer farm­ers bet­ter re­turns and un­like rice can be sold lo­cally even in small quan­ti­ties. The de­mand is mainly for veg­eta­bles like gourds, pump­kins, and cu­cum­bers which grow in this sea­son as well as beans and la­dyfin­gers.

Damião Telles, who ran a stall along the Can­dolim beach serv­ing tourists, said they have to do some­thing to feed them­selves. “Some will go back to fish­ing, some to farming.”

Goa’s econ­omy has largely been de­pen­dent on tourism. Most stake­hold­ers like taxi op­er­a­tors, small ho­tel and shack own­ers, left tra­di­tional oc­cu­pa­tions of their fore­fa­thers like fish­ing and farming to get into the tourism sec­tor.

Ho­tels have laid off staff leav­ing peo­ple with­out a reg­u­lar source of in­come since the pan­demic forced In­dia in March to sus­pend al­most all visas, modes of trans­port, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional flights, to check its spread and hit the tourism sec­tor the hard­est. In 2019, over 5 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic tourists vis­ited the state, ad­ding be­tween 9-11% to the state’s GDP, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

Miguel Bra­ganza, a for­mer agri­cul­ture pro­fes­sor at the Don Bosco Col­lege of Agri­cul­ture, said they have been guid­ing and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to plant in their own back­yards and kitchens or in what­ever area they can find. “We are teach­ing them tech­niques on what crops can be grown along­side oth­ers to help with the soil fix­a­tion.”

A task force that the Goa gov­ern­ment has set up to rec­om­mend an eco­nomic re­vival plan for each vil­lage has sug­gested all pan­chay­ats should iden­tify po­ten­tial ac­tiv­i­ties to pro­vide liveli­hoods to peo­ple. The ac­tiv­i­ties re­late to hor­ti­cul­ture, poul­try, dairy, fish­ing and re­vival of mi­cro and small scale in­dus­tries as well as tra­di­tional arts.

Chief min­is­ter Pramod Sawant said 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.”

All­wyn Jorge, a pan­chayat rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Car­mona, said, “The gov­ern­ment should try and en­sure that more peo­ple are en­thused by this.”

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