‘Organic, natural, zero budget, bio-dynamic, rainforest alliance’, etc. etc., There’s endless jargon that surrounds food and farms today and yet we went ahead and coined – ‘forest friendly produce’. If you are wondering if this is a marketing term to give a positive spin to the food we produce, you are partially right.
But there’s more to it. To really comprehend that, you have to understand that Coorg and most of the Western Ghats receives between 100–250 inches (i.e. more than 6 meters) of rain spread across 4 – 5 months. In perspective, that’s an entire district submerged in about two floors of water! A lot, isn’t it?. But it is this catchment that drains into the Cauvery river – the lifeline of Bangalore and Chennai. In other words, the river really gets most of its water after draining through a few 1000 chemical pumped estates before making it into the plains as a source of ‘drinking’ water.
With erratic weather patterns, several estates have replaced blossom showers with sprinkler systems for better yields. When you replace 0.15 inches of rain with sprinklers on a 100 acre estate, that’s approximately 1.5million litres of water (the daily drinking water allowance of 10,000 people) that would have otherwise flowed down the hills into the cities.
At scale, when 1000 estates do this simultaneously, literally sucking out water from the aquifers, to irrigate the farm; lakes dry and wells get deeper. For the surrounding wildlife, it means empty watering holes. What one needs to do is go beyond using only neem oil and manure and think of the impact the existence of the farm has on the surrounding ecosystem.
The Poomaale Estate was an attempt to create an alternative, by building a resilient ecosystem to deal with inconsistent weather. By doing so, we may not be as ‘high yielding’ as our neighbour, but for the 5 tons of wild beans produced, we have allowed 300 litres of water to stay in the aquifers, gradually draining into the watering holes in the area. Hence the term – ‘Forest Friendly’.
So the next time you collect produce from our farms, know this – you have helped a forest dwelling species with 2 days’ worth of water. So sit back, sip that cup of guilt free coffee and reach out to us to know more about the processes that allow us to be this resilient.