Over last few years of our work with land, few things are becoming clearer :-
1.) Agriculture as it is carried out today is becoming increasingly difficult with every year. Primarily, due to changing weather patterns and increase in Human greed.
2.) Trees are not only more tolerant to weather changes, they offer many additional benefits to human beings and environment.
3.) Fruits are more nutritious and healing that grains/cereals.
4.) Agriculture (crops) are labour intensive – and it is becoming a problem everywhere.(The only other way to go about is complete mechanization – which has it’s own implications). Trees on the other hand require care only for first few years.
5.) Generally, most of the fruits have more or less a stable market and market price whereas the crops market is heavily fluctuating.
Once we look at reasons above, the natural curiosity is “If it’s so simple and straightforward to grow trees, why don’t we all focus more on food forest and tree plantation* instead of grappling with crop issues ?”
(*Natural Forest like plantation with mix of fruit and native wild trees is what we are calling food forest while tree plantation is being referred to plantation of only useful trees arranged in rows and columns)
Broadly, here are few possible reasons –
1.) Trees require a gestation period of 3-5 years, thus farmer’s immediate needs are better met with 90-120 days crops.
2.) The patience, the vision / planning of tomorrow is a scarce quality in farmers.
3.) Lack of awareness, guidance, system support, living examples – discourages any move on that front.
4.) Mass scale crop farming encourages everyone to be safely part of majority and follow the rat race.
5.) While it’s true that trees are more tolerant but even their production can be damaged by changing weather patterns.
6.) Traditionally, in the psyche of Indian farmers – fruits were always fetched from forest or few trees commonly found in the village. The idea of growing forest is alien to most.
As we move forward, however trees are our only saviours. Most of the problems that we face today; be it global warming, food security or financial stability – can be all mitigated with help of trees. There is need to create to set up living examples and inspire farmers to set up food forests.
At Madman’s farm, this is the direction that we wish to move towards. We have already grown food forest in half an acre of land and done tree plantation in 4 plots but slowly we wish to expand it further and become a primarily a food forest. Nothing beats the company of a tree :-).