Sandeep Saxena wants us to grow our food in forests
By Anandi Sharan
Sandeep Saxena graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology and the India Institute of Management and from a postgraduate in the USA before going to work for Templeton Franklin. During his time there he was asked to investigate the viability of investing in zero budget farming, a trend in organic farming in Andhra Pradesh at the time.
He soon found that, let alone cows and other inputs, there was no information for determining the economic feasibility of organic farming in the chosen regions. After resigning from his job he spent a decade figuring out what made sense … and he realised that in agriculture and forestry there is an either or situation.
At the moment almost all food products are produced under the Borlaug method using the techniques developed in ‘the Green Revolution’ of the 1960s. The products of the Borlag Method have a global market, but the method is now on its way out because, instead of being a sink for emissions, the method produces great quantities of greenhouse gases. These emissions are associated with industrial farming and amount to one sixth of the greenhouse gases in the world.
His realisation was a process of coming to understand how to leave the land untilled to create forests; and he created such examples of forestry on previously tilled land.
Sandeep Saxena’s radical alternative is to grow crops in forests, where financial returns may come a range of unique products that have a premium in today’s health conscious market. His realisation was a process of coming to understand how to leave the land untilled to create forests; and he created such examples of forestry on previously tilled land.
Sandeep now supports the cultivation of traditional products on hundreds of thousands of acres controlled by small holders. Many traditional forest products are gaining a new market in this way too and so the people have renewed faith in the viability of their livelihoods.
Sandeep now supports the cultivation of traditional products on hundreds of thousands of acres contolled by small holders.
His aim he says is nothing less than to make all land use for food crops into cultivated forests so that there is no longer a premium on forest produce; so that it becomes the standard practice. In this way it would take the place of the outdated Green Revolution practices; just as in the previous era, the Borlaug method replaced existing practices and became universal – no longer earning a premium in the market.
Sandeep’s struggle now is to work with others to gain more recognition in the market for forest produce, which is distinct from other organic produce in that it takes a whole forest system to produce forest honey and other products like forest mushrooms, forest turmeric and forest potatoes. Cultivating foodcrops in a forest requires a completely different approach.
The product or products sold from a forest come from just a few of the hundreds of species of plants and animals in the forest. But thanks to the premium they fetch in the market at the moment, the forest is as viable right from the start. With forest cultivation comes vital benefits, at the small scale and on a large scale.
Here are the links to Sandeep Saxena’s website and Tedtalk.
Anandi Sharan was born in Switzerland and educated at the University of
Cambridge. She is a highly influential environmentalist and a co-founder of India’s Green Party. Anandi lived in Karnataka villages for many years, and now lives
in Bangalore where she works on trying to find the best money system to
help people adapt to climate change especially in India.
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