PROMOTION OF FOOD FOREST
The very words “Food Forest” immediately brings to our mind the concept of Permaculture. However to put it simply, it is a concept whereby we mimic natural forests to adopt a multi layered approach to grow edible fruits nuts and vegetables in our own farm or garden.
WHY DO WE NEED A FOOD FOREST?
The first and foremost objective is to replace the monoculture being practiced by modern agriculture with a diversified food source. Monoculture other than limiting human beings to a select basket of edible produce has also resulted in the indiscriminate use of fertilizer and pesticides which finally find its way back into our system.
As we attempt to imitate nature in growing our food it avoids unnecessary agricultural inputs and optimizes on human labour also.
Balanced nutritional requirements of the inhabitants can be easily achieved through a food forest than through modern mono cultures.
If one crop fails it will be more than compensated by the others.
Soil fertility is more in food forests than in mono culture farms.
It encourages the flourishing of other bird and animal species due to the diversity of the food forest.
WHAT IS A FOOD FOREST?
At the outset let us clarify that an Orchard is not a Food Forest. Rows and Rows of a single species be it Mango or Apple or Guava is not a food forest. The entire foundation of food forest is built on the premise that every layer produces a unique item of food and there is a harmonious relationship among all the plants and trees grown in a given area. We will illustrate this with a simple example.
The uppermost or the canopy trees: e.g. Coconut, Jackfruit, Mango etc.
The next layer will be made up of not so tall trees like Goose berry, Banana, Papaya etc. which will be planted between two sufficiently spaced canopy trees.
Lower down the layer will be medicinal shrubs which will be planted at appropriate places.
Then comes the climbers which grow vertically under the tall trees. Eg pepper.
To prevent soil erosion and also the direct exposure of sunlight on the land, creepers like cucumber and ground cover plants will be grown.
To exploit the sub surface layer plants like potato, ginger and turmeric can be grown.
It is thus clear that instead of growing a single crop in an area multiple crops can be grown . This will increase the productivity and profitability of the available land manifold. However caution has to be exercised in selecting the plants and trees which can be grown in a particular place. That is dependent to a large extent on the soil, water availability or non availability and other local climatic conditions. .