Agroforestry can solve Cauvery crisis: Sadhguru

Agroforestry can solve Cauvery crisis: Sadhguru

pro- farmer

“Farmers should quit traditional agriculture such as paddy farming and instead grow trees besides adopting small-scale animal husbandry,” he said. (DH Photo)

To address spiralling number of farmer suicides, plus ecological damage in the Cauvery river basin, Sadhguru, the founder of Isha Foundation, has advocated a new agricultural method.

“Farmers should quit traditional agriculture such as paddy farming and instead grow trees besides adopting small-scale animal husbandry,” he said.

Agroforestry is not unknown in India, but Sadhguru wants it implemented on a large scale. His foundation is set to meet with the Karnataka government on September 17, to discuss the formation of a new Timber Board, which he said would help facilitate large-scale agroforestry in the state.

When asked what prompted him to develop this idea, he laughed and said, “My question is what has prompted people not to do anything to save the environment and lives?

“For the last five-and-a-half months, the Cauvery river has not touched the ocean. In the Cauvery basin, 45,600 farmers have committed suicide over the last decade because they are unable to make a living out of agriculture. If many in the basin, which extends across 78,140 sq km in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, adopted agroforestry, they will not only find it more lucrative, but they can also restore the organic balance of the soil,” he added.

He narrated figures to show the payoff. Three different types of trees can be planted, he said: softwood, which can be harvested in five years, medium-grade hardwood, which can be harvested in seven to 12 years, and high-quality hardwood, which can be cropped in 12-18 years. The first harvest can fetch farmers (with average land-holdings) an income of nearly Rs 2.7 lakh, with an exponential increase in earnings with each passing year.

Each hectare would require the planting of at least 1,500 trees. When asked how farmers would survive for the first few years without a crop to harvest, Sadhguru said government should offer an initial subsidy of around Rs 45,000 per hectare per year to farmers.

Plan to CM

“The subsidy can be withdrawn in the sixth year, because farmers will be in a position to harvest the timber,” he said and added that the plan is being presented to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.

According to Sadhguru, traditional Indian agriculture has been ineffective because of the high use of water and because of the loss of organic compounds from the topsoil.

‘River calling’

According to Sadhguru, his Isha foundation has attempted to create a sustainable model for agroforestry using 33% of the Cauvery basin in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu - a programme, which he said, will span 12 years and hopefully attract 1.2 million farmers out of the 5 million residing in the basin.