ARANYAANI FOOD FORESTS – A GUIDE
By Sandeep Saxena, Aranyaani
Q1. What is a food forest?
It is just a forest where all the natural processes of a forest go on. The term ‘food’ is specific to humans as now we don’t consume much directly from forests, as they come. So, many plants and trees are planted to make it more useful for human consumption.
Structurally, it can be a plain grassland or a dense vegetation with multi-layer and diversified flora. But it should be self-sustainable, regenerative and strong enough to handle climatic events. To achieve that, nature makes the flora bio-diverse and symbiotic.
In these times where even the forests are compromised due to human exploitation, we mostly end up creating food forests in heavily tilled, polluted and parched lands. In such cases, nature is unable to kick start the process of reforestation. Hence, it needs upfront effort till the soil is ready and live.
Q2. Why food forests?
To answer that, we just need to recognize that
- Humans are natural beings, and
- Much happier being natural beings.
By natural beings, I mean we can’t exist in isolation from nature. Nature has been reduced to greenery in discussions, but it’s more about invisible – the processes and physical forms that make visible happen.
Listing these processes is much beyond my capacity, as even science is not yet there but primarily of what we little we know, they include from passing on of genes to a seed and then cycle of that seed , maximizing the use of only energy source i.e. sun, circulating water from seas to glaciers (via monsoons in our country) , management of fine balance of air components that make life possible, creating of soils that nurture smaller forms of life and hold bigger forms of life.
Just look at human relationships – from formation of vitamin D using sunlight, to continous flows of air and water within us, to such association of mental and physical health with sun, soils, air and water.
When we break down or tamper with these processes for any reason, we become unnatural. But we also start becoming deprived of nature and hence unhappy. Temporary remedies like medication and travel to natural/ scenic places, work temporarily only.
Once nature’s void is filled by market products and services, there is no end to habitual consumption. I feel the markets like it that way.
The earliest departure from nature happened with tilling practices. Humans must have felt elated at the site of growing what they want. Drawn to this date, populations and technical advances, the habits changed from control of nature to elimination.
But can we? Our bodies are much more complex and exist only if natural balances are in harmony.
Hence, food forests. That is our link to food, water and air, without breaking down nature’s own processes, some of which I listed above.
Q3. What does Aranyaani mean and why follow it?
For over 2 decades, I studied various methods in food growing practice. I have written a great deal about Borloug's methods, and most other practices have tried to find an answer to it. These industrial techniques that involve deep tilling, GM or hybrid seeds, chemicals and mono-cropping started coming into popularity from 1930 onwards.
Devoid of any other detailed methods, and due to dilution of voices like Mahatma Gandhi, E.Kant and Albert Einstein, Borloug's model got hold of agriculturists and governments, riding on massive investments from likes of Dupont and Monsanto. I tried Borloug's farming earnestly first for about 2 years, only to realize how it destroyed soil and its linkages to other life. Around 1960s, many were realizing the same thing.
Organic movement also came along as a result of consumer worries, but it never addressed (even Now) the Deep tilling and mono-cropping problem and associated harms for ecology and food quality. It also remained silent on seeds, until recently.
I suspected for long that it was just a way for making hybrid or GM seeds popular as they need less chemicals and more water.
My journey passed the Organic stage too quickly as I was bent upon not paying any cost. This path automatically meant no machine tilling and GM/hydrid seeds. But I still faced the problem of water and soil destruction caused earlier. So had to graduate to more diverse farm model.
For a while during Organic experiment, I liked the ZBNF model, and tried it like a small farmer. The economics of a few local cows (that wont yield more than 2 litres a day, would need open grazing spaces and greens) and low yield of seeds, meant it was economically challenging. On a larger scale, the cumbersome process of distribution of fertilizers was expensive.
Coming back to 1950s and 60s, many earnest ones came out with their experiences, prominent being methods of Fukuoka, Miyawaki and Permaculture.
I tried Miyawaki but it had an innate aggression in it- though it was for making a forest like cover quickly. Whether Nature understood this human need for speed or not was my doubt. It took some time to solve that when plantations started failing in a severe drought. I observed that in that speed, we had not allowed for two things- formation of all layers appropriately like in a forest, and linked to it, the water channels and porosity had not come. So the dried small forest did not revert back to life after drying up.
Parallel, I had experimented with Permaculture and Fukuoka.
Permaculture, (with Bill Morrison having been to India and seen bio-diversity) had lots of influence of building synergy between various elements from plants to birds and climates. So in that sense, it is a good sustainable model. However, there were a few questions : How do I know its working and won't collapse one day. How do I know they all are collaborating? Why do humans have to interfere and design so much if they are collaborating? How do bees, birds, cows, and earthworms collaborate, and how do we incorporate native trees like Banyan, peepal, teak, saal, etc.?
Fortunately, even while I had those questions, I never got influenced by preferential bias towards fruit trees, etc. I had same respect and love for forest trees, and grasses and thorns and poisonous plants, and wanted them all on the farm.
This answer came in a flash while I was traveling along Narmada and visited a small place called Malpur, in Dindori. There I saw banyan and semal trees loaded with pristine honeycombs. The surrounding area had other conditions favorable for them- flowing fresh water streams, lots of wild and other flowers, etc. Nature was creating valuable products but only when left without judgment and control.
On the other hand, humans were creating honey from boxed bees with full control but without host trees, natural flowers and shrubs, and native bees. The only question was could this be healthy and sustainable? From prior experience, I could say that reports and tests are all about selective parameters and more to prove that it is harmless within those parameters.
Despite all lobbying by economists and institutions running such programs, my instinct said no to it. I could not find any reason, other than greed, to destroy natural environments and yet create products that are supposed to come from them.
Coming to Fukuoka, I found to be most pristine of human effort. There was the patience of a monk, a joy to see a small plant interacting with its soil and no scope for humans to be very interfering. Fukuoka came close to a Philosophy where all methods (I think its all about one- No Tilling) are in sync with nature and themselves. The questions there were more technical :
How do I incorporate this Indian bio-diversity in it e.g How do I plant turmeric without tilling?
How do we plant trees that won't go with Seed ball well or its too difficult e.g. Mulberry etc.
I found natural tilling and holes being drilled even in forests- by rodents, by hoofs, by boars. They do create some essential conditions that nature needs. So while unnatural machine ‘tilling’ was start of nature’s destruction and a few market forces domination, but aren’t natural forces continuously working on the ground and below it too, but in harmony with something?
Answers to such observations and puzzles, happen to come slowly, in parts from my own experience, and from various eminent practitioners across the country.
Where I found all above methods lacking was about how to integrate animal life. Probably, these had evolved in Japan and higher latitudes of North America. But out here, we had cows -the best natural connect between agricultural waste and soil fertility. Also, we were creating a lot of biomass. So there had to be animals in it with plant diversity to preserve their health.
Another thing I found not easily handled was the effect of monsoons and then summer, the water flows and how water is stored. Permaculture has an element of ponds. But being in Narmada belt, I realized that best storage or moisture controllers are trees. That made me realize that nature, left to itself keeps the water flows on, rather than blocking it. Hence, my quest was not being satiated by following any one prescribed model.
By 2012, the forest I was trying to grow/ regrow had evolved a lot. In that process, I had first hand experience of many processes.
That was the background when I came across this in RigVeda, devoted to ‘Aranyaani’, and read and re-read as I found an inspiration or a message hidden here:
अरण्यान्यरण्यान्यसौ या परेव नश्यसि |
कथाग्रामं न पर्छसि न तवा भीरिव विन्दती.अ.अ.अन ||
वर्षारवाय वदते यदुपावति चिच्चिकः |
उत गाव इवादन्त्युत वेश्मेव दर्श्यते |
उतो अरण्यानिःसायं शकटीरिव सर्जति ||
गामङगैष आ हवयति दार्वङगैषो अपावधीत |
वसन्नरण्यान्यां सायमक्रुक्षदिति मन्यते ||
न वा अरण्यानिर्हन्त्यन्यश्चेन नाभिगछति |
सवादोःफलस्य जग्ध्वाय यथाकामं नि पद्यते ||
आञ्जनगन्धिं सुरभिं बह्वन्नामक्र्षीवलाम |
पराहम्म्र्गाणां मातरमरण्यानिमशंसिषम ||
GODDESS of wild and forest who seemest to vanish from the sight.
How is it that thou seekest not the village? Art thou not afraid?
What time the grasshopper replies and swells the shrill cicala’s voice,
Seeming to sound with tinkling bells, the Lady of the Wood exults.
And, yonder, cattle seem to graze, what seems a dwelling-place appears:
Or else at eve the Lady of the Forest seems to free the wains.
Here one is calling to his cow, another there hath felled a tree:
At eve the dweller in the wood fancies that somebody hath screamed.
The Goddess never slays, unless some murderous enemy approach.
Man eats of savoury fruit and then takes, even as he wills, his rest.
Now have I praised the Forest Queen, sweet-scented, redolent of balm, The Mother of all sylvan things, who tills not but hath stores of food."
My vision of forest changed. A green monotonous or single layered cover devoid of other layers, birds and bees is as desolate as a concrete jungle. For survival sake, these tree systems will last till they can.
On the other hand, even a thin layer of grass and wild shrubs with tons of life beneath is also a thriving forest.
I thought, here is the answer hidden in those verses:
" The sounds of forest, the scents of plants - trees, lemons, mahua, etc, the animals and their sustainability, the humming of bees on trees, these all will tell us whether the system has come alive or not."
To that I have remained true. Life was where forest was (Jee-v-an) and vice versa. It is a satisfying understanding of forest.
But I felt another thing that the existing models’ pursuits started with current conditions, and imposed severe human biases in processes about what to do? I anyways was skeptical of certifications and courses, as limiting the scope and eliminating factors, rather than showing the nature within and enabling oneself.
On the other hand, being a Vedic philosophy, it was not factoring where to start and how to reach there? It was telling us about subtle parameters to judge a good food system i.e. changing colors, aromas, sounds, with seasons. This is possible only if ecosystems are alive and responding to higher changes- solar and lunar cycles, and the observer i.e. human is ready to perceive and relish the changes.
The quest to make a pristine food forest happens both outside in nature and inside the mind and soul.
Pursuing Aranyaani is about a fantastic inner journey. Upfront, we cannot look at it externally whether it is about commercial earnings or about the physical experience of working in a food forest.
The inner journey makes us see and interact and partner with natural forces when we come to physical manifestation. We wait for an entire monsoon and winter, in anticipation of honey bees humming in summers. And when the first ones come in Spring, they acknowledge their happiness.
We see continuous going and coming of life, and the circles. This is the link between inner and outer journey.
Sun is no longer only a burning star. It is a source of life energy. Similarly, our relationships with soil, water, and air get different meanings. Hence, I follow Aranyaani.
It just happens at this juncture in the world, humans need it too. Our food and product systems have to evolve so that we no longer exploit nature, but restore it. Our minds have to evolve so that we do not seek a distant nature, but preserve it around us.
This need is also creating viability of such ecosystems as any scarce resource creates. One day, this viability shall start going down, but that will be a very beautiful day for this planet.
Q4. Where do we start the process of food forest and important points?
As I said, The quest to make a pristine food forest happens both outside in nature and inside the mind and soul. If one is creating a new food forest, it is very important to note the native flora in different seasons and various layers – large trees, commonly used fruit bearing trees, smaller trees and plants, shrubs, grasses, water flows and bees ecosystems.
From there a pattern shall emerge. Since long term survival of the food forest project rests on its viability during formation years, one should make a list of 3 to 4 plants that the local climate helps, fetch higher value from consumers, are grown better or have better to market food/medicinal properties in mulch and natural soil, and the seeds are easy to source.
Once these are identified, it is easy to survive the initial years of journey. In these times, it is not required to worry about how they will sell or travel to distant consumers, as long as a valuable food is produced.
The following guidelines are for Indian plains and plateaus, but the logic can be applied to deserts, hilly areas and similar structure can be decided.
Then, keeping value addition and symbiotic foods in mind, also make a list of supporting plants or plants/trees that prosper much more in that area e.g. Pomelo in Bihar. This will help the food forests ‘commercially’. In earlier times, local foods were also preserved using local ingredients, e.g. raw turmeric in lemon juice, with pepper. They were natural combinations and healthy foods.
To value add to products, one will need these combinations. Hence, we need to tabulate knowledge of local recipes that are almost extinct now. Then add these plants to our mix.
Some of them may take years to mature compared to base product, e.g. turmeric can grow in 9 months while lemons make take 4 to 5 years. But these have to planned upfront.
Then plan plants that accelerate restoration of soil. We shall need earthworms and sub soil organism to live sustainably there. For this, we shall need a combination of tap roots and grass roots. Many plants like Vetiver, lemongrass, etc., are excellent in holding the soil, maintaining porosity, tapping the micronutrients and act as good shelters for earthworms.
Next, add specific trees, and plants that are not just hardy enough to survive specific extreme seasons, but also relish them, and help the ecology in that particular season. For example, in central India, Mulberry, cranberry, neem, Tamarind, etc. help in keeping soil protected from extremely bright sun in summers, and keep temperatures pleasant. This in turn allows sub soil life to survive in hot days. Mulberry also sheds leaves in winter, allowing sunlight to come down when its most needed!
To maintain water flows, vetiver and large leaf trees help a lot.
Then, add a few peepal, banyan, kadamba , gooler etc. to the lands. These become host trees for bees and birds later on, and lead to higher pollination, apart from giving honey.
While these efforts are going on, keep testing various native medicinal plants and shrubs as it takes many years to develop an expertise in them.
Many ecosystems happily support cows or buffaloes or hens, that too as free range. As ecosystems develop, these can be added.
If any plants or tree saplings are left out after this exercise, add a few so that bio-diversity is enriched.
Coming to working part, always remember the objectives : ‘Regenerative, Self sustainable”. The goal of natural processes and diversity itself follows. I advise one to follow four simple working principles:
- No unnatural tilling of land: Initially one may have to dig for saplings planting, and in absence of mulch, specially on pre-tilled lands, one may have to till to plant roots like turmeric. In that case, restrict it to naturally possible force i.e. hand till or ox-till. This will ensure shallow surface movement and minimal unnatural weight on land. There are some recent developments in light tiller machinery, so one can explore from time to time.
Anyhow, once trees, vetiver take root, the area available for root based plants shall drastically reduce while their food quality value shall improve.
- No GMO seeds: Seeds that do not regenerate or belong to the evolved native species, shall need more water and external resources, will not regenerate. Hence, use natural and local seeds or saplings.
- Minimal interference, be it chemical or organic fertilizers. One day, the system has to run by itself. By interference, we increase our work while slowing down the systems’ processes to develop on their own. Hence, avoid temptations to interfere, even organically. Free roaming animals and birds, sun, bacteria, earthworms etc shall take care of providing ferlizers,etc.
Also remember, welcome the termites. Let them eat whatever they want to- they are harbingers of soil life and fertility. So they pay back more than they take; just that we need to wait for the results.
- Bio-diversity above the soil and specially- below the soil. This will take care of natural processes.
I believe these simple principles are enough to lead one to making a good food forest.
Q5. How do food forests restore soil life, water flows or balance air quality?
The relationships between life, soil, sun, water and air and their processes is well known.
When it comes to restoration of soil life, water flows and air quality, all impacts happen in tandem and not in isolation. This is very important point to understand, else we get mislead by sporadic interventions to get things done quickly, e.g. putting earthworms, boxed bees, and many such one off solutions.
The root systems, and the canopy and shade system ensure that soil temperatures are helpful for life throughout the seasons. The primary life is microbial one, which in turn ensures capturing enough nitrogen, carbon and moisture from atmosphere. That is why it is said that the key to atmospheric carbon and nitrogen balances are in the soil.
This is linked to soil porosities through earthworms and the presence of termites etc. to create more biological matter that can mix with soil.
Trees and living beings act as critical storage links in the water flows. Nature by itself, does not work with stop dams etc, it has all these storages.
As far as one can see, the chain linkages are numerous. Upon these structures only, another life form i.e human, stands.
Q6. Can food forests earn economic returns that are better than other models? Will it become the dominant food system again?
I normally dissuade folks to work on food forests with a ‘ROI’ mindset. The reasons are twofold –one , that mindset will lead one astray to venture into non-natural interventions. This happens as at times, the manifestation of a natural process going on inside soi, may take years to be observable. If one breaks one process during this period, it will be bad for the overall forest development.
Two, these are uncharted territories. Along the way, one might discover that its taking longer than expected, or one blockbuster item may pop up, e.g. an exotic herb that got optimal conditions. One should not give undue importance to either and push in a direction, but just focus on letting the nature work.
Those two caveats said, the time has come for food forests, due to sheer unsustainability of life with industrial food systems, and increasing cost and reducing margins of industrial farming, and loss of important habitats for life saving foods and herbs.
What we are seeing now is just a beginning of that recognition, and marketplace is full of certified processes and training programs for sustainable farming.
This is due to larger financial gains from creating an ecosystem akin to a forest and has edible flora.
I believe that this cycle shall last for a reasonable long period lasting multiple decades. Hopefully, one day the planet may have lot of damage undone and then returns peter out as it becomes commonplace.
When it comes to dominance of a food system, we need to understand that basically, there are two dominant food systems – one a human focused unnatural one , and two, all other species interplay for the natural system.
The latter is still huge and larger, just that one species on the planet does not use it. Yet, now it is not large and robust enough to undo the annual damages done by the industrial farming. Ideal situation should have been 100 percent of latter system.
Q7. How to grow food forest on a stony/ rocky land or a heavily tilled land?
In my journey, I encountered a myth that certain types of lands or lands with water were better for human consumption.
Nothing else could have been far from truth. It is a devilish thought that has turned naturally undulating and pristine lands, first into mechanized plains and then into poisonous dustbowls.
As I travelled into interiors of Madhya Pradesh and saw the denuded rocky patches, denuded for mining and left as no good for agricultural purposes, it dawned to me that these were once thriving forests- giving life to small streams that flowed into large rivers.
Once a place for a happy tribal hamlet inside forests, now they were pictures of impoverished, subsistence living. I took upon that as a challenge, i.e. to convert them into food forests that produce top quality foods.
The first challenge was to bring some life and biomass back to such barren landscapes. The first pawn in our army were the hardy shrubs- often cursed as bad across agri fields. These were Gajar ghas, Besharam, and lantana. We knew they would spring up even here, with a little assistance in monsoons.
Once they sprang, then lots of saplings of Peepal, neem, bel, etc very hardy plants, that could withstand and break rocks, were planted. The shrubs were going to act as temperature controllers and moisture trapping plants for the roots of these hardy saplings. In addition, there would be a layer of biomass present on the surface.
It took one year for these hardy plants to set up their roots, and be settled for long term. I knew that in a radius of five feet, their roots would be busy finding ways and holding whatever biomass and solid comes around. So in second monsoon, the next set of tree saplings were planted that accelerated the rate of leaves dropping and biomass creation. These were planted just five feet from first set of saplings.
Once these became stable, in next year we came with smaller plants like lemon and cranberry. Toor pulse native breeds that are tall and used to rocky soil, were planted next to all saplings. Then to accelerate the soil holding process, vetiver was planted everywhere in monsoons.
We had begun the process of breaking the ground underneath and creating soft soil on top.
By fourth year, we had a vibrant system- pleasant enough in summer heat, and with a small layer of biomass present. The plants would support each other in handling cold winters, heat and draining excess rainfall. So it was time to try lowest layer of forests- turmeric, dhania, and sweet potatoes, and similar plants.
The result is for all to see. In a quick span of about 4 years, absolute rocky and barren land was converted to thriving food forest.
On the other hand, Lands tilled with heavy machines, present a deep challenge. The soil is non porous, open to sun and weather, and toxic at places. If we don’t till and plant a crop in industrial style, it won’t see other plants easily, even if a forest is around. But tilling it puts it again in the same loop.
I have realized, it not only needs heavy density of seeds upfront in monsoons year after year, but we also need to plant a lot of vetiver, tumors, and let grasses and weeds come wherever they can.
Massively upturning the soil and artificial composting is no substitute for nature slowly waking up and starting on its own. Then the above process can be followed once we start seeing signs of life in summers, odd plant sprouting here or there left by birds, etc. Once these symptoms come, it will rapidly evolve.
Q8. Can existing forests or plantations be converted fast to a food forest?
There are two different scenarios.
One is a mono-cropped orchard, with modified breeds, chemically intensive and maintained with artificial inputs from mulch to say boxed bees. It is nothing but an extended and more moneyed expression of greed, though it seems more green than a poor farmers industrial farm.
Such scenarios are difficult to convert easily; they will take even more time than industrial farms. If the breeds are natural and native, it reduces the effort by a long yard. If the only change here is bio-diversity, then its afster as lower layers can start coming from first year.
Second is a pure forest like situation; we come across many such villages in India. These are mostly organic, but have lost diversity of layers and trees. Here the problems are two fold- one created by market certifications like Organic, which come at a high cost and there is no ready marketable product in ‘fashion’.
The second challenge is government systems as lands are common and pre-conceived notions of villagers. E.g. How does one bring bio-doversity to them when there is no ownership or arrangement to maintain assets and share their fruits? The various agencies involved have set programs and areas of control.
In addition, most villagers now avoid growing Banyan or peepul, even Goolers etc. Bio-diversity is not a priority and then have a fixed notion of certain immediately commercial trees.
Hence we have found it easier to work with individuals.
Q9. Can human food need be met with this approach?
The hindrance is not the amount of edible biomass/ products, but what we eat and how much.
In terms of volume, a good guava orchard along the Ganges produces about 25 tonnes of guavas per acre, and if one converts it into a food forest, the volume would be about 50 tonnes of edible foods. (the additional water required being closed to nill)
Compare that with about 4 tonnes achieved with two crops (with about 40 tonned of water input).
Even after factoring for grains to raw green/fruits food equivalence, it is not disheartening.
The above is most fertile Ganges belt. When we move away into hills or into lower plateau, the food forests start being better producers (with due time given). The reason is simple, food forests are not idle for one single day when it comes to sun light. They don’t wait for water distribution and micronutrients. They are highly efficient. In comparison, when it comes to industrial crops, one has to live with heavy sun losses (idle seasons and open lands), water losses and input losses.
In terms of volume, one can only guess given the extent of microbial and insect life, but it is clear that forests feed much more zoological mass than the industrial model feeding humans.
Q10 . How can folks help Aranyaani? Can anyone without land help in creation of food forests?
We are working on four programs at present. One can fit anywhere where one’s calling is. This is not our work but everyone’s at the end of the day.
The four programs are:
- Aranyaani Core Projects: There are internals projects, done by fulltime and specialized folks. The programs range from building applications to support the operations and customers, nurseries and seeds and know how to support growing in farms, and the third party associated operations who can use traditional recipes and make products. Our goal is that each person should be aware of where the food is coming from and associated with some food forests; the local community also shall be able to value add to food forest produce with their traditional knowledge.
- Aranyaani Local food forests: In the project, we are trying to bring food forests as close to the consumer as possible. This is the only way to reduce carbon footprint of food consumption, and also preserving its freshness and natural properties. This vision shall need many and massive food forests around urban centres and their local connect.
- Aranyaani Exotic food forests: In this project, we are adding bio-diversity from each area in the country. Or example, Upper Himalayas are a source of unique flowers and herbs while central India has more aromatic flora. This is being done as separate but coordinated projects.
- Free Health network and healing projects: We also run a free health network, with the conviction that food forests and villages have lots of trees and herbs, so that no one shall be deprived of health in this region. We supply important items in limited quantities like giloy, raw turmeric, leaves etc, at delivery charges and no other cost, to All, irrespective of their ability to pay market rates or not.
In addition, we also strive to keep many animals in our food forests, as animals closer to humans, have received a very raw deal with the transformation to industrial farming. The numbers are limited but growing.
Any individual can participate in above 2 to 4 freely, as long as one understands the philosophy behind these works. The land ownership is not a requirement as we get those readily with well meaning folks. We do not seek volunteers for ad hoc pursuits but for devoted objectives.
The possibilities are limitless. We will help you imagine and execute them.
Or example, one lady who is good at natural soaps is now helping village women to make turmeric soaps, next to one of our food forest with abundant raw turmeric. There is a commercial relationship too here so that the person gets royalty from that product.
At the same time, there are numerous philanthropic roles too wherever you are.
Q11. What is your message to your own team?
Who are our workers, partners in creating our food forests, and in holding this beautiful ecology together?
Before starting on the journey, that question had to be correctly answered. Initially, I did the error of thinking that seed suppliers, credit suppliers, advisors, etc were our partners and farm operators our main workers.
Over time, I have evolved to realize that our frontline workers are honey bees, earthworms, microbes and their likes. Then next in importance come snakes, birds, and other animals, various flora plants. Then came the tribal and other village community around us. Then came our human workers on field.
It was a disturbing thought as I delved deeper. Why? Because no organization can be successful if its most critical workers are scared, stressed and fighting for survival.
That started the Aranyaani project. First task in 2006 was to save a habitat on our farm where a large cobra lived and still lives. That day onwards, our soil, and flora were going to be safe habitats for our non human workers.
In all neighboring areas, they were being killed by foolish folks, not realizing that our future generations will get wiped out if we don’t save them today.
So our sanctuary became a talk of the woods amongst these creatures. And once they were happy, we were blessed with returns. Each year, birds and monkeys plant more saplings than humanly possible. They will just eat a neem or a Cranberry and many other plants, digest it and spread the seeds like a seedball on the ground.
The earthworms would keep the soil channels open- a job that would take us millions of nano-JCB machine, something that is still not built.
The bees would pollinate, and also yield tones of honey.
All they tell to me that as their organization head, I have to do more –increase into more area and help their community. I cannot explain to them the greed of other humans, the land laws, the consumption factory. But they keep me awake.
Our next line of silent workers is the communities living around. They understand the value of the work, and protect the nature and trees from bad eyes. They suddenly realized that all they knew about plants and animals was actually true, but the vested interests’ driven knowledge and campaign made them believe that a GM wheat was a better option than a few trees in their backyard. And what cost it has come to them at?
They want to get involved more, transform their own fields. So that is another huge task that I owe to my team.
Then come our full time human workers – who constantly work in all seasons. Initially, I had thought and told them that it is all about growing and they should not worry about selling, as the world was too short of our products. Over years, my thought has changed. It is all about what we as humans want to be, and what we want to leave to our children when we depart. As human race, we have more responsibility; so children also mean birds, bees, animals, and plants.
The responsibility also means we do not interfere much. I have seen many greedy folks wanting to use GM saplings or water in odd seasons, not trusting the natural cycle.
As a rapidly growing organization, it is a huge task to make sure all newcomers and new contacts and customers understand that.
Q12. Are there any training/ certifications we should take to learn more?
I don’t advise any such programs or trainings. The call is from within and nature opens up from there. To learn and start seeing things as nature does, caring for one plant or tree shall be enough.
The knowledge is inbuilt in our existence just like a bird or monkeys plant the seeds at the right spot, without formal trainings.
We do not run any formal trainings. As I said earlier, formal programs shall try to structure the knowledge with limited parameters and lead one nowhere. It only serves the human need to guide and be guided in a limited flawed manner, nothing more.