Sunday, October 17, 2010

World Food Day – a reminder of our dependence on farming

World Food Day ought to be a day to celebrate the sustenance provided by the earth to the human race and all living forms. The 8 billion strong and growing tribe of humans sitting on top of the food chain should feel exceptionally lucky. Instead, today this occasion brings first to mind numerous challenges being faced by the agriculture sector and the environment. The tiny State of Goa, which is being unscrupulously sold for real estate, mines, industrial estates and other speculative and unsustainable land uses, is on the verge of a collapse of its food and water security systems.

In Goa, there is an urgent need for introspection among the decision makers as well as the people. The State of Goa is blessed with heavy rains and the precipitation is trapped in the forests, the lateritic caps and the coastal wetlands to give Goa the ability to sustain a large population in self-sufficient villages. Goa is one of the places in India where ancient knowledge systems have survived from times immemorial, a fountainhead of wisdom necessary for the survival of mankind. This extremely tiny land hosts an incredible diversity of ecosystems, giving rise to a feeling of being in paradise. In this background, the rapid loss of agricultural lands to unsustainable land uses, fuelled by the large profits to be made, has created an emergency situation like never seen before. Blinded by greed, we have dared to mine in the extremely sensitive Western Ghats, permanently destroying what used to be heaven on earth. In the process, we have also lost forever our precious water. Similarly, industrial estates and even commercial housing have been indiscriminately imposed upon the lateritic plateaus in the midlands, without any consideration to the life-giving functions being carried out by the plateaus for the numerous villages existing at their feet, or for their religious and scientific reverence. Thirdly, real estate and starred tourism have changed pristine coastal villages into environmental time-bombs. The Government has also done its bit in many ways to hasten the doom, especially by ensuring that all Government projects are planned in the prime paddy fields being cultivated by poor ST and other farmers for centuries. This destruction of the Goan paradise is like living the story of the man who killed the goose the lays golden eggs.

GXE implores all Goans to take heed of the changing times and the challenges lying ahead. We need to mend our ways for the survival of the future generations. Saving our agricultural resources is today the biggest challenge. In this endeavor, the Government has to play a leading role by reversing the unsustainable policies of yesteryears, and it can start this process by immediately stopping acquisition of agricultural lands, and implementing the National Policy for Farmers, 2007, overdue for three years now.

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