40 Acre Land of Our Lady of Mercy Church-Paneer is a Haven of Various Fruits & Vegetables
Mangaluru: There’s nothing like a fresh hybrid tomato/ Cucumber/ Brinjal/ Pineapple/ papaya or a mess of greens right out of the garden. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a big backyard – or a green thumb, for that matter. The nearby supermarket or a shop that sells fruits & vegetables is a good second option, but fresh produce is very beneficial and healthy. Thank goodness for the volunteers of this Church located on the outskirts of Mangaluru, who toil hard in cultivating/growing different kinds of fruits and vegetables, and have become like Good Samaritans to the families/parishioners, some of them low-wage income earners, offering the fruits/vegetables are very reasonable prices, much cheaper than the prices at supermarket or vegetable market.
It is not only a wonderful way to bring food/produce to people who need it, but it also helps build community. When you’re planting seeds or picking weeds side by side with a neighbour, it’s almost impossible not to engage in friendly conversation. Participants also get to experience that great feeling that comes with growing your food. Likewise, hands that are helping others also help build a stronger sense of community. Helping a fellow human being produces a strong, unspoken connection that bridges socioeconomic, racial and religious boundaries. Church gardens also bring neighbours together, and they’re inexpensive to start. All that’s required is a plot of land, a few seeds and garden tools and a group of people willing to exert a little elbow grease toward a bountiful harvest.
Rev Fr VICTOR D’MELLO-Parish Priest of Our Lady of Mercy Church-Paneer
The Church we are talking about is ‘Our Lady of Mercy’ at Paneer under Kotekar Town Panchayat limits, where nearly 40 acres of land have been made the best use of by cultivating fruits and vegetables. Before going further into the details of the article, Team Mangalorean wants to compliment Fr Victor D’mello, for his sincere efforts and initiative in converting the 40-acre forest-like land into a fruit and vegetable haven, after he became the parish priest here in 2021. Simply amazing and marvellous! In addition to fruits/vegetables, even areca nut and rubber plantations have also been taken up at this Church, which is the oldest church in the region.
ALWYN D’SOUZA Paneer- Agriculture Committee Member/President of Catholic Sabha Mangalore Pradesh
It should be noted that Pope Francis had urged the Catholic faithful to focus on care for the natural environment, Accordingly, this Church also decided to make the best use of the Church land, which will in turn help the Church to earn. The Church was built by the Portuguese in 1568 and was mentioned by the Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle, who visited Mangalore in 1623. Our Lady of Mercy has an ancient history associated with it. In the 17th century AD, the church gained importance as it was considered to be the largest in the Dakshina Kannada region. It is through this church’s existence; eventually, ten more parishes took birth namely, Fajeru, Karopadi, Vijayadka, Manjeshwara, Bola, Permannuru, Ranipura, Aomeombala, Mudipu and Alyarpadav. The parishioners are generally poor, small and marginal farmers or daily wage earners.
Speaking to Team Mangalorean, parish priest Fr Victor D’mello said, ” A 15-member agriculture committee to monitor the farming activities has been formed. 17 wards come under the Church limits. To manage the farming activities, five teams (A, B, C, D, & E) comprising members of the various Wards have been formed. Each day members of these wards arrive at the Church as early as 5 am, to water the plants and do other plantation work. They work till 8 am and proceed to their workplace. Shramadhan is conducted every month to remove the weeds”.
Fr D’mello further said, ” The committee members work like a family, as the agricultural land belongs to them, and take good care of it. Harvested yield is sold to the parishioners every Sunday after the mass at reasonable prices, and if requested by shops we also sell it to them. Our intention is not to make money by selling the yield, instead, we want to create a friendly environment, and pass it on to the future generation”.
Also speaking to Team Mangalorean Agricultural Committee member Alwyn D’souza Paneer, who is also the president of Catholic Sabha Mangaluru Pradesh said, ” Hybrid vegetables and fruits are cultivated on a huge scale. We have pineapple, banana, Ivy gourd, brinjal, gherkins, cucumber, ash gourd, and bottle gourd, among other produce. Apart from them, nearly 3000 areca nut saplings were planted in 2022, and they are grown well. As areca nut takes around 3-4 years to yield, the committee members under the guidance of Fr Victor D’Mello decided to take up the cultivation of vegetables, pineapple and papaya as a mixed crop amid areca nut saplings”
D’souza further said, ” We take up only organic methods of cultivation by applying organic manure made of goat dung, powdered coconut husk, and poultry manure. We have three borewells to supply water to the vegetation. A drip irrigation system has been introduced to ensure there is no water wastage. Many times members/volunteers water the plants in hand. We all work in unity like the agricultural land belongs to us, with no hassles or arguments. We are all happy that we created wonders on this nearly 40 acres of forest land which is now yielding fruits and vegetables, a great initiative taken by our young and dynamic parish priest”.