Sagvolhi (Agriculture): What a difference, in just 50 years!   


Kemmannu News Network, 10-06-2012 16:34:21


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Sagvolhi (Agriculture): What a difference, in just 50 years!   

There has been talk that the cost to benefit ratio in rice farming, these days, in the konkan karavalhi region is 1:0.5, or in other words a 50% loss.  I have no idea how this figure was drawn.  I have no intention to dispute nor justify this notion. 

However, just half a century ago, when I worked as a farmer in Barkur region, with my parents, a sister and a brother, (there were no child labor movements then, nor I was aware of any), I believe, we never encountered any loss at all. I will explain why: In addition to bountiful regular rainy season rice crops, we had second/third (beans/grains) crops always, and where there was gravity water flow, we had a second rice (suggi) crop.  We had sufficient chicken about 10-15 adult ones, to yield enough eggs to eat, and to sell too.  [We had chicken meat and panpalle whenever any lunch time guest came along, and I used beg the guests to stay overnight, thus, we could have rosa-mas and sunnas!  No doubt, farming is non-profitable!]  We rarely bought fish, we fished in the ponds and rivers, and we enjoyed fishing, still do.  We had fish in the plate and rice in the saucer most of the time.  I used those chicken intestines to catch rock-crabs.  We had 2 or 3 cows, at least one cow yielding sufficient milk throughout the year for home use, and to sell as well, without diluting.  (This reminds me of the American milk powder distributed through the Barkur and other parishes. We were free, but not from hunger.)

We had a pair of water buffaloes, which, not only ploughed the fields, but also yielded sufficient fertilizer for about 2 acres of our rented paddy fields.  We never bought commercial chemicals as fertilizers. We gathered the settled down silt from the rivers, and used it as fertilizer, balancing on our own heads from the river to fields. We had a few coconut trees, and we could sell a few coconuts, which helped buy kerosene, jaggery, and spices. (We did not have to pay electricity bills, phone bills, car loans, or servants!) We had vegetables growing throughout the year (some perennial roots even without being attended), and we used to plant melons (mogin) and watermelons, in the summer. We used to store at least 200 mogin/melons for the rainy season.  [I used to compare my melons with those of an aunt’s, and my mother never agreed that mine were larger!]  The only hired labor was at the time of trans-planting, weeding, and harvesting, which was paid for in kind, usually rice/meals/coconuts, whereas all the rest of the labor was domestically provided. We boiled our paddy, sun dried, and de-husked by pounding by hands. My sister’s hands bled most of the time. To sum up, every related work was domestic, therefore, we could break even as farmers, using these supplemental incomes, and each child working before and after school hours.  We were so tired, I remember, dosing/falling asleep, while reciting rosary, practically every night, so much so, I used to announce ‘time for rosary”!  I slept/snored once at the altar as an altar boy, during the hour long sermon! Well, now, tired or not, rosary and  TV are my best sleeping pills! Yes, we paid the landlord’s dues (genh in the form of paddy/rice.) faithfully.  (Well, I should admit, that there was help in the form of money-orders from elder brothers, used for school/Sunday clothes/books etc.). 

We paid taxes too, just as Christ told the Jews “Give to Caesar, what is Caesar’s”, but I don’t think we could afford to give anything to (God) or church, except, some vegetables/coconuts, occasionally.  Had we got into sugar cane, cashew, or chillies, or potatoes, perhaps, I could have ploughed and worked in the fields wearing short pants, instead of …..;  and St. Peter would have got his tithe, twice.

Yes, rice farming requires long hours of strenuous physical labor, and the present day farmers should be commended for their non-profit never ending hard work.  Do you know that a pair of buffaloes and a farmer has to walk hundreds of miles to plough an acre of rice field in a season? (I wish I could brain-wash the buffaloes to plough on their own!) Do you know how many bales of grass and how many maunds of grain are required to keep the animals alive and healthy? Even milking a cow is an art!  Even the cow controls her milk flow based on who milks her! Unfortunately, the barkur area paddy farms are either low lying, (invaded by salt water tides), or inundated by monsoon floods mostly, and/or suffer from lack of sufficient fresh/sweet water, thus, I believe, profit is out of question, and yet, our farmers have not given up. (I wonder why!) Apparently, there is not enough man power, either. [May be Chooda Master could share his farming experiences.]

Without supplemental incomes, yes, farming is a loss indeed.  To appreciate their hard work, and for keeping the culture alive maybe we should initiate  annual or seasonal competitions and award certificates or trophies (with some cash attached ) for the biggest/heaviest fruit/vegetable of common kind, to encourage farming, and to enjoy fellowship and share information.  Is there a holiday called ‘Farmer’s day?”   Long live rice farming or any kind of farming, such cash crops as coconuts, arak nuts, cashew nuts, mogrin, banana, or sugar cane, even fishing.  If He was from Barkur, he would have used perhaps toddy, and ‘panpale’, instead of ‘bread and wine’! 

Folks, whenever asked ‘what is your culture?” my answer has been ‘agriculture!’  There is a divine joy in nurturing a mogri val, thendli, a banana, or a coconut tree, or a rose plant.  I do raise tomatoes, chillies or roses every summer. I asked a relative of mine, ‘How many ‘valchi-bhajji’ beds do you have?” His answer was, “Which century are you from? It’s cheaper to buy these days!”  I asked a little girl “Where do the bananas grow?” “In the Fruit Market, you silly…don’t you know that much, and don’t disturb me while I am watching TV.”  What a difference, in just 50 years!   

Thank you readers for letting me pour out my pleasant and proud memories.  “A seed is just a seed, without the help of nature and the farmer.”

(Name withheld upon request)

Comments on this Article
James Fernandes, Barkur Chicago Fri, December-30-2016, 1:02
This article generated so much of discussion. I liked it.
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

Prodigal Son, Promised land Sun, June-10-2012, 7:11
Out of the four there used to be one son who could not finish school thus got stuck back. But he should be smart. He should ask money for gheny from each of the other three saying produce is needed for parents to be fed. Rest for himself salary. Money for medicines from each, but spend for half the tablet. Money for reserving burial special plots saying that our family status (maryad) must be maintained, and please the clergy. Need a vehicle to take the parents to church/temple feast, because taxi is expensive. We must sponsor the annual feast, at least once before the parents die. The more garnels sahibs(fire-works)you blow nearer you are to god in smoke. He should go for every wedding, communion, baptism, funeral and masses, visit the sick, to reciprocate the gifts, in order to maintain the status. Then where he has time to attend his farm needs? Does not matter if the cows are not fed, rice fields neglected, eggs are not picked, coconuts are not plucked. Servants for different domestic chores. Alhas misplaced priorities. Thus the fields are barren, plots are sold out, food will be delivered by caterers daily. How family farming can be continued? Need Ethics, I mean work ethics
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

Wellwisher, Kemmanu Sun, June-10-2012, 5:14
What you have written is very true. From the article I feel you have left Barkur. Why did you leave. The thought of green paddy, big pumpkins in the field etc gives us pleasure. Whom shall we blame ourselves isn’t it . Earlier at least one son use to stay at home to look after the farm. Now a days every house we find one or two children and they are Engineers and wants to work in the Gulf and migrate to Canada or Australia. Parents are old, even if they want to continue with paddy, children who are abroad force them not to do cultivation. Fields are converted into small plots and houses have been built. Nothing is impossible. Can we bring awareness in our future generation?
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

Frustrated, Angry Land Sat, June-9-2012, 4:36
Well said, “25 paisa Chicken and 75 paisa Masala”. Sounds like, "1 rupee present, 21 rupees wrapping"!! It rsquo;s because, lot of us are not aware that all those masalas are from plants, grown one way or other. Who is in Mangalore growing cloves, or spices?; Unless it is Secret of course. Why one should? It’s cheaper, yet 75 masala, but the 25% chicken is 300% costly to the farmer, unless, he has a chicken farm using growth hormones, which when eaten by children, their growth is more than their mothers. Yes, Jossey, farming is not only business, but it’s Science. But who cares? You are not coming back in 100 years to eat these fruits, or enjoy these flowers,,,,,if they are still arond, unlees in closed gardens, or museams. Who that fellow created these comments?
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Jossey Saldanha, Mangalore/Mapusa/Mumbai Sat, June-9-2012, 3:08
Farming in DK is not professional or competitive. People do farming just because they own farmlands and do not know what to do with it. They use the same beaten down techniques handed down by their fathers. Have any of our farmers taken a soil sample and got it tested from any professional laboratory? Government of India has invested in many such laboratories who guide farmers based on soil samples what crop to grow and what fertilizers to use to enrich the soil. Farming has to be taken over by Business Men who understand economical farm size, finance, technology, labor, fertilizers, pesticides, crop rotation, irrigation, ROI etc. It is sad to know that most of our farmers toil and end up with “25 paisa Chicken and 75 paisa Masala”.
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

Scattered brain/No offence, Loud thinking Sat, June-9-2012, 12:56
You cannot be called a farmer if you have 1 or 5 cents of rice field. One has to expand it. Pool the land make it coopertive farmig, but first learn to cooperate, and learn to share evenly (labor and profit) without greed.... Mechanize it. Transport it oneself, without using a middleman. Time to change and think differently and then risk-taking initially. Quite a few locally rooted teachers, bank workers or Even IT workers, even priests, can pool some money, to buy mini tractors or havesting machines, and Share/Rent/Maintain. What these professionals do after or before their 9to5 white collar jobs?. If all these commentators here could farm as children and teens, and YET go to school why not the employed adults? How the rest of the world works as farmers? Perhaps, Cuban sugar, Idaho potatoes, Basmathi rice made in China, Tomatoes raised in balcony pots in Japan, farm raised shrimps from Philippines, Coffee from Bazil, powdered milk from Wisconsin or Alps Valley field cows, or even TV dinners, AND buy EXERCIZE machines, and pay high for fistful of tablets, or drain fat from overwight slow moving children as well. If there is no electricity for three days, I look for plants.
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

MM ALVARES, Mangalore Sat, June-9-2012, 9:28
It’s a wonderful calling back our memories. It’s a fact till 1980 or so. Today, every household have 1 or 2 kids. All want their child to be an Engineer / IT specialist / MBA and do better than his parents, look for a white collar job. Agriculture today not at all profitable, it’s not commercial… mainly because ours are of fragmented / sub divided pieces of holdings. No one wish to render physical labor either hires or works in his own fields. We are ready to do exercise….! There are more empty houses…. and among the occupied 50% households with retired elders! Acres and acres of land left un touched, abandoned for years. A big portion is already bought by Land mafia to develop as Plots. People sold for peanuts, many are repenting just knowing the rates are 100 folds in some cases, with 5 – 10 years ! Everybody thinks let him do the agriculture not me. Surely for next 10 years the scenario will remain same even worse. Forget about food shortage, if you have money you will have it from somewhere or the other, quality… God only knows? In a real world of today, no one wish to be a FARMER at our natives….it may be considered as an HOBBY not a way of life……………
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Prajapathi Bhat, Kemmannu Sat, June-9-2012, 9:22
Nicely composed, the author highlights the beauty of labor as well as nature during those days. However i would beg to disagree, it is their generation which out of sheer poverty and unemployment sought employment abroad and encouraged the present also to seek employment in other fields save agriculture because of the pain involved. My father would have never agreed if i had told him i would be a farmer than a software engineer. What do you think?
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Anil, Dubai Sat, June-9-2012, 7:29
I feel very bad the way nature has been raped in DK, It has literally been stripped of its beauty and glory. Those were the days I enjoyed life and reminisce. It’s a dream now!!
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

CDS, India Fri, June-8-2012, 2:41
It is great to have a person who is nostalgic about the past and treasures the memories of childhood as I do. I always feel that we who are above 40 are a vanishing species in the rat race of the present world. Poverty and hunger are the 2 things which teach us the greatest lessons in the world. About 30 years ago majority of the people were dependent on agriculture to survive. Get early, Work in the fields upto 8 AM, Run to the school which sometimes a few miles away, Come back in the evening and help your parents in their chores. We saw poverty in all aspects of life, Food, Shelter and clothing. Many of us worked hard and by the grace of god reached a certain status in our life like the writer. Compare the same with the present day children – Wake up at 7.30, Daddy rolls your blanket and mat & gets your tooth brush and paste ready, mummy gets the breakfast and bag ready – School bus waiting at your doorstep – Return in the evening, watch T.V, Play computer games and go to sleep. Question is education and training are they the same things? Present day education is all about scoring marks. It is a rat race to reach the top. Training to live the life? No way. Broken relationships, Drug and alcohol abuse, broken marriages, Depression….. List is endless. Luckily we live only upto a certain age and may not see the whole destruction. Is it possible to blend the past and the present? Only time can give us the answer.
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Rajesh, Malpe Fri, June-8-2012, 9:22
Excellent experience, accepting this experience shows the goodness of the writer, God bless you sir I too had such experience till I was college going..........
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Dony, Katapady/Dubai Fri, June-8-2012, 7:40
I almost had a similar experience. It is very sorry to know most of the people around my native have give up Sagvolhi migrated to Dubai or else to make a better(artificial) life!! Next generation may not get rice to eat they may have to eat something closer to rice made from petrochemicals or other artificial thing!!!
Agree[0] Disagree[0]

Peter, India Fri, June-8-2012, 4:26
Golden memories! I had tears in my eyes when i finished reading. Thanq sir for relishing, taking me to the past...... days which are gone. The same work oriented genes of our ancestors are asleep now. Like our ancestors ...we are not exposed to sun, we dont do phisical work, inspite we get in to AC rooms, and eat more! How calories be burnt? U yourself imagine the consequences!
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Damodar Samani, Thonse Thu, June-7-2012, 8:40
Great piece of write-up, whoever you are!!!! You have pulled the cord. Wish your kind of generation multiply by millions to see India back on track.
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