To save our species : choose farming or forestry?

There is a very thin line between farming and forestry. Humans have made that distinction, not nature. Obviously, because farming itself is man made :p

That was my attempt at sounding profound.

~6 minute read~

Nevertheless, according to popular belief on this planet and for the purpose of this blog :

Farming = annual crops such as cereals, pulses and vegetables

Forestry = trees, perennials such as Fruit, nut, timber, medicines & herbs etc. and native trees not necessarily for human use

Let’s have a look at Forestry first:

  • Agro-forestry : Agro-forestry is simply human-immediate-need focused forestry : growing trees for fruits, nuts, paper, timber etc..
  • Native Forest Conservation : Forest conservation is a much easier task than restoration. Conservation is mostly tasked with protecting native old age forests from encroachment, poachers and other forms of human destruction. A native old age forest needs no intervention from humans whatsoever to function other than leaving it alone.
  • Forest Restoration : Forest restoration involves a massive amount of research on identification of native trees, understanding soil layers + types, charting land topography and then executing tree planting, water conservation and much more.

Protecting diversity is key in building resilience of ecosystems the human species thrives on

Forest conservation and restoration initiatives realize the need for diversity and incorporate it well in the projects. The way Agro-forestry is usually practiced in our country and across the globe involves mono cropping and doesn’t protect biodiversity.

My thoughts : Dense forests for hundreds of kilometres across our countries is what we need, instead of heavy manufacturing, infrastructure projects, FMCG factories to combat climate change. Forest conservation and restoration should be the priority. Amazon is so huge that it dictates the rainfall pattern across the entire continent of South America. Taking learnings from that, in certain parts of the country, government should decide what farmers should cultivate to build native tree corridors. We can take rain to drier parts of Andhra Pradesh if we build dense forests in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. If only state governments had the will to collaborate on such matters instead of fighting over disputes such as Kaveri, south India would be an even much better place to live in. Isha Foundation had taken a few steps in this direction – I am unsure how sincere the efforts were.

Let’s talk about my personal choice now : Farming

After forests, organic farms have the next best carbon sequestration potential. Soils have tremendous capacity to capture carbon

Forests store carbon in their soils and their trees. Whereas, farms store only in the soils. All you need to do to improve soil health is to add a lot of organic matter back to the soil. Violas!

Soil needs to be constantly covered throughout with at least 3 inches of leaf litter, manure and other farm waste, especially near trees, vegetable beds and rice fields. Once you have done that, life will return to the soil, water and top soil will get retained. Soil will remain healthy if you keep doing this over a long period.

Let us MSGA – Make Soil Great Again.

I sincerely believe that if large numbers of people, including people reading this blog, begin to go back to the soil and their lands, we can save human species from heading towards extinction. Extinction might be an extreme prophecy and a dsyphemism, but you get the point that I am trying to make here 🙂

Here, I present my case:

We definitely need more and more people involved in growing food, restoring and conserving forests. There’s a ‘but’: Forest conservation and restoration efforts need cooperation and coordination on a massive scale and therefore should be taken up by governments. Growing your own food is something that everyone can take up including people living in apartment complexes, while holding on to your jobs.

Having said that, with a farm, you can be self sufficient in most your needs within a couple of years in a small space.

It is believed less than 2 acres of land and your effort is all that is needed for a family of 6 to grow all your food and satisfy your energy needs.

If you ask me, I will always hope the connection with food will drive people to a simpler way of life. Because, trust me, watching your food grow and building soil health is immensely satisfying. Despite being a speck in the crowd, to inspire people, is one of the reasons we chose farming.

Forests, definitely, have had a huge impact on the climate humans evolved in and will continue to do so. But, if people see where their food comes from, maybe we can start changing more minds about how they want their futures to look like.

A lot of native forest destruction has been caused by human needs of industrialized form of food in excessive proportion. More often than not, its more than what our body needs and our planet can tolerate. Culprits a.k.a Demands – Meat, Dairy and Oil.

If people get back to farming, my belief is that our civilization’s greed will reduce and the lands where old age native forests once survived will get a chance to naturally or artificially regenerate. Killing 2 birds with one stone : forest restoration enabling reversal of climate change and organic food for everyone enabling good health & nutrition.

Having learnt and realized all of this, it was time to put plan into action. So, we chose to buy an over cultivated farm in 2018 and are trying to revive life in the soil slowly, but surely. 🙂

With this, i rest my case.

Picture courtesy : Arun. The hills in the background are a part of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, a protected native forest . The house is constructed in our farm land.


Sudhakar Iyer

2 Comments Add yours

  1. mezuzubes says:

    I see a water body there – did you also start rainwater harvesting?


    1. Sudhakar says:

      We have two ponds and one small recharge pit in the farm for rainwater harvesting. But the pond in the picture is a village pond which supplies water during the monsoon for the rice crop to multiple farms. 🙂


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