Men in cassocks lead the green revolution

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September 18, 2022 | 06:08 IST

Men in cassocks lead the green revolution

The pandemic has literally brought many people back to their roots, with villages taking up agriculture. These priests worked with the land and cultivated it, not only producing products, but also new methods of farming and involving the youth

Indeed, with numerous parables about farmers in the Bible, priests in Goa are involved in personally demonstrating how important agriculture is to the people. Scattered across parts of Goa, some priests are making small but significant changes in the way young people think about agriculture.

Fr. George Quadros, originally from Ambora, completed his early studies in Chennai and then middle school in Don Bosco, Panjim. “After my ordination, I became interested in farming, starting with a vineyard in Nasik where we had 20 acres of vegetables, fruit and cattle. After spending seven years at Sulcorna while the crops grew, I too grew with the knowledge of farming. I developed a strong interest in mechanization while at the same time looking for cost-cutting alternatives. My fascination with farming was a calling because I realized where I put my hands there was considerable success,” says Father George Quadros of his early days in farming.

Father Quadors believes that the peasants are the ones who feed the nation and yet are paid the lowest. To make their hard work easier, Father Quadros relies on mechanization. “When I was with farmers and worked with them, I realized that only through farm mechanization can a farmer get back to his fields and farming. This prompted me to explore all possible options to ease the burden on the farming community. The very first benefit is the health of the farmer. Other advantages of mechanized farming are safety from chemicals that a farmer is usually exposed to, production costs are significantly reduced, less fertilizers and pesticides are used, time is saved, crop care emergencies can be addressed in a timely manner, higher productivity, timely execution farms and less destruction of soil and water,” explains Father Quadros, currently stationed in Don Bosco, Fatorda.

He has ministered at various Don Bosco Institutes around the country including places like Panjim, Nasik, Sulcorna, Delhi, Odxel and Loutolim. His latest achievement is the precision farming drone. “The drone will be the final game changer. I’ve been working on it for the last two years, finding a dealer and then looking for financing. The agricultural drone is in its early stages across India. I am an early riser and the first to bring it to the farming community of Goa. The drone brings precision farming with it. The drone itself is just a tool in the hands of the farmer, who now has immense possibilities. A little training, supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, gets the farmers back on their fields. I intend to advance the green revolution in Goa by pushing the drone to its limits over the next two years through training and getting more youth involved in drone operations,” says Father Quadros.

Padre Pio Furtado influenced young people’s thoughts to go green even with small areas and plots of land. From Miracles High School in Sanguem for five years to the current Father Agnel High School in Pilar, where he has been Principal since 2021, Father Furtado is bringing the garden closer to students by converting nearly 2,400 square meters into a fruit and vegetable farm. “In Sanguem itself, the students delivered around 30 kilograms of vegetables to the horticultural collection point every day. The school was also awarded a state prize in 2016 for getting started with gardening. Here in Pilar we have been growing vegetables from November to March. The Eco Club consists of students from grades 5, 6 and 7. It is important to teach them when they are young,” says Father Furtado, who is from the village of Merces.

Her vegetable patch includes beets, two kinds of chili, peppers, onions, two kinds of eggplant, lettuces, pumpkins, ash guardian, honeydew melon, two kinds of watermelon, bottle gourd, snake gourd, tomato, cherry tomato, cilantro, and sweetcorn. During the monsoons, Father Furtado grew meghalaya black rice seeds and, surprisingly, they performed exceptionally well. “The fields are looking beautiful and getting ready for harvest. I am very happy with the results,” says Father Furtado, who fell in love with the garden as a student in 11th grade in Nagpur and is pursuing his passion.

In 2014, Father Mario Rebello of the Pilar Society attended a nine-month organic farming course at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan. On his return to Goa, Father Rebello continued to work with the late Father Inacio Almeida in Bhirondem and completed seven years there before moving to Collem where he now resides. Here he used the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a cultivation method aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in agriculture. “My farms are completely organic. I also grow vegetables and have tried different varieties including lettuce and fruits like papayas and pineapples on a small scale. I couldn’t try all the techniques I learned in Japan because the weather in both countries is different. I invite students from different educational institutions across Goa to the farm and give a lecture on natural pesticides or the use of pesticides and vermicompost,” says Father Rebello.

Father Rebello will move his base to Dharbandora where he will work on a property controlled by Pilar’s company. After studying the soil and weather conditions, he now draws up a plan for the next steps. “I will start cultivating lime since there are no fields in Dharbandora, so I can start planting fruit trees. I am also planning to start growing honey. There is a shortage of water, so a well is needed on the property to develop the land,” explains Father Rebello, who is from Cavelossim.

Farmers have no retirement age and their toil and work bring joy. “They spend their whole lives in the fields, tilling and working hard, but when they see the harvest it’s a different joy,” concludes Father Rebello.

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