Gozo’s future perspectives – By Lino DeBono
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“Gozo’s tranquility and rural aspects are a must to keep and uphold. These aspects will be good for both the present and future generations. Gozo has always been rural with farming and fishing being the two most sought after jobs in the past.
The families were large in numbers, usually about 10 children per family. Some more and some less. The educational system was very elementary and most children opted out of school on reaching 10 or 11 years of age. Parents used to take their sons with them in the fields and the girls were doing housework errands or becoming housemaids in private homes.
Farmers in this way made Gozo attractive and beautifully kept, and a wonder to uphold the valleys and worked fields. Their products were genuine and healthy without any medicine which is used nowadays. The fields and products were simply a joy to behold.
The life was simple but satisfactory. Nowadays the fields that the old timers used to have are getting smaller and smaller, for the simple reason that these numerous families, whenever they inherit from their parents the property has to be divided – the portions becoming smaller and smaller. Also alternative work is sought for other financial remuneration.
So lesser areas, less full time farmers, several part time farmers, but, and I say a big but, there exists a large number of family farmers who produce their small and not so small patches of fields with all sorts of vegetation. Thus keeping Gozo rustic areas in such a good state.
The Governments and the European Union dedicate 40% of all its budget to the farming community. Personally I do not agree with this vast amount dedicated to only one sector. Mostly because financial aid is given to several farmers and herders to not produce or work their fields, in order to keep stability in price costs.
It is good for assistance to be given to those that produce – to keep the outer roads rubble walls erected and proper. But there is a lack in keeping the inner rubble walls as they should be as well.
So my suggestion is for the authorities to include all rubble walls and not only those on the main roads. This will help in keeping Gozo’s rural aspects in great shape and so picturesque.
What else is needed in this regard? Water – water and more water. With water one can grow vegetables all year round in one way or another. The fields will be greener all year round. Glass houses growing all sorts of agricultural varieties round the seasons. This is essential for the farmers, even down to the smallest of them all.
A commodity which our Islands don’t enjoy is water. Several have invested in drilling for boreholes to have water all year round. This in itself is proving to be an essential national problem as the underwater system is starting to be contaminated by salt water infiltrating the fresh water. This has already happened in some areas. So how can one help and assist in this field?
Gozo is blessed by valleys. Wherever and whichever area one visit there are valleys. Rainwater in winter goes through these valleys straight to the open seas. So how it is that common sense to not dictate to our past and present authorities to build staggered dams in these numerous valleys? Water that can be used by farmers, help in water infiltrating/peculating to our underground water storage and thus help replace the water taken from the boreholes?
In the Xewkija/Ghajnsielem area there is a drainage water purification unit installed. Till now this unit only purifies the waste water for sea dumping. It was said that this purification unit is to be extended for further water purification so as this water to be used by farmers and part time farmers.
This system is already used in Mellieha and installed to local farmers, which has resulted in their products being quadrupled. This apart from having the fields greener all year round.
So what’s keeping the one in Xewkija/Ghajnsielem from producing this semi-purified water system. This system should be for one and all. Not only for full-time and part-time farmers, but for every citizen who has fields that produce vegetables for family daily use.
Gozo is also enjoying in a very small way – but at least it initiated, agro farming. Also animal friendly facilities where people can go see – rest and spend their time. These sort of tourism can be helped to expand as it keeps the same natural habitat that Gozo is renowned for.
These initiatives can be privately made or assisted by our authorities. Initial financial assistance can be made by these individuals, or those interested themselves, or initially helped by the authorities.
The authorities should also push forward their Farming/Agricultural Departments to see that the indigenous local trees and fruit trees are still in existence and reproduced by them. For example the Comino Red & White Plum trees are not produced anymore, by and in the Governmental Farms. Why?
Also one does not see any more along our roadsides the local “Cawsli Trees” (White/Rosy pink berries tree) Why? The pine tree is also almost a thing of the past. The old round sweet tomatoes which we used to put on a piece of bread with oil – has now became a thing of the past, due to tomatoes paste factories introducing new seeds suitable for tomato paste.
The Governmental Farms have an obligation to keep the old local tomatoes, so enjoyed by many, still in existence. We still can do this. This goes for the Carob tree and others.
The Gozitan countryside is refreshing and stupendous during winter – imagine if we can enjoy the same in summer?”
Photograph by Alain Salvary