It is the New Year 2017. The world now harks back to the beginning of civilization and culture and agriculture itself looking back to the times of Cain and Abel, gathering fruit from the forests and tending to animals organically. The concept of “food forests” and “analog forestry” is getting popular as the era of chemicals-based “industrial agriculture” and “battery farms” recedes to the background.
I first heard of the concept of analog forest in September 2009 from Kamal Melvani, a diminutive lady with big ideas. She is a Mumbai bred Sri Lankan of Gujarati origin. Kamy, as she is popularly known, was making a presentation at the South Asia Convention on Outstanding Organic Agriculture Technologies conducted jointly by the Goa-based Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) and the Government of India’s Ghaziabad-based National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Bengaluru. An analog forest has trees, shrubs, creepers, grasses and herbs just as in a forest but the analog forest also provides fruits, fibres, cereals, pulses and vegetables in a planned way. That is how the name ‘food forest’ cropped up. Call it mainstreaming of organic agriculture or introduction of University faculty to organic agriculture, the dual-edged objective of validating organic agriculture practices and popularising them in the academia was achieved. There has been no looking back. We now not only have ‘Research Institutes in Organic Farming’ (RIOF) at UAS-Begaluru and Dharwad but even an undergraduate program at Don Bosco College of Agriculture (DBCA), Sulcorna-Goa that is focused on organic practices. Four students, three of the first batch and one in his first year of BSc (Agri) course, have even researched, analysed data and submitted papers for the 19th Organic World Congress to be held in Noida in November, 2017.
The UAS-Bengaluru has a project on Jack fruit, a crop that has been identified as climate change resilient and an insurance against hunger. With scientific back-up, it has been possible to test, evaluate and standardise various products from jack fruit vegetable, vegan chicken, chips, pulp, milk-shakes, panas-poli, satt or jack leather, burfi, modak, pedda, jam, jelly and wine to gluten-free seed flour and caffeine – free malted seed coffee or Jaffee. Grafting techniques have been standardised and skills transferred to nurserymen so that named varieties of Jack can be made available for large-scale plantations. Grafts are available even in Goa. The Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI), the National Bank for Agricultural Refinance & Development (NABARD) and the Western Ghats Kokum Foundation (WGKF) are jointly organising an advanced workshop on jack fruit and kokum for those who attended the seminar last March. The aim is to get the industry to take-off on jack processing on a higher scale in Goa and the Konkan.
Have a great year ahead. We will rediscover the Jack for all tastes.