On the foot-hills of Karnataka a new way to save the environment through eco-travel and organic farming
Approximately five hours west of Bangalore in Karnatakais the Kodagu district in the Western Ghats.
This picturesque area is one of the most affluent districts in India, despite much of the district being used for agriculture.It’s here in the Kodagu district that Sujata and Anurag Goel decided to start up Mojo Plantation in 1994. In doing so, they had hoped to leave behind the rat race of urban living to explore an organic way of life and a more harmonious existence with nature.
Modelled on an organic farm, Mojo Plantation works on ecological principles; gleaned from the experience of the founders in the sciences of botany, plant biochemistry, genetics, ecology and molecular biology.
Also on the plantation is a Rainforest Retreat, a unique eco-tourism project that enables tourists to experience the harmony of living with nature. “The Retreat provides a platform for exchange of information, farming practices, research programs, with likeminded people, farmers and students from India as well as from other countries”, adds Anurag.
Both Mojo Plantation and the Rainforest Retreat fund the Goels’ other project– their NGO entitled Worldwide Association for Preservation and Restoration of Ecological Diversity.
The goal of all these organisations however is similar – to ensure that farmers in the Kodagu region and beyond are aware of the perils of conventional agricultural practices and to promote instead the adoption oforganic farming that preserves soils and fosters biodiversity.
The long-term danger of chemical farming
According to the Goel’s, the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides “kills not only one species which is considered a “pest” of the crop, but also completely destroys the complex network of biotic life that supports that ecosystem.”
This is a major problem in the Western Ghats, especially for coffee and spice crops whose species are threatened by the use of these fertilisers over several years. Since coffee and spices are very important to the entire economy of the region, it is imperative to find and implement sustainable solutions.
It is for this reason that the Goel’s follow ‘natural principles’ such as ecological farming – a practice based on nurturing and nourishing the soils – reduce the damage to crops from pests.
Organic farming practices at Mojo Plantation
Talking about their farming practices, the Goel’s mentioned that they do not stick rigidly to one or two principles. In fact, Sujata notes: “Our aim has been to strike a balance between time-tested traditional practices and modern scientific approaches.”
This mix includes traditional practices such as panchkavya – a concoction, which is prepared by mixing the five by-products of a cow, biodynamic farming, permaculture or natural farming. What results is an organic product, which has the potential to play the role of promoting growth and providing immunity in the plant system.
Despite that the Mojo Plantation is located in an area that receives a lot of rainfall where often limited varieties and quantities of crops that can be grown, the plantation’s farming practices have helped ensure a wide variety of crops that have a unique flavour can be cultivated.
Why choose organic farming?
“Biodiversity levels are greatly affected by decisions that agriculturists make. Organic farming allows for a balance to be struck between land use and the conservation of biological diversity. This is even more important in the Western Ghats as it is a region which has unique and rich species diversity”, says Sujata Goel.
For example, rather than razing natural forests to farm the land, the Mojo Plantation cultivates crops that can be grown in the shade of the rainforest trees to preserve biodiversity whilst also earning an income.
By adopting organic practices, Sujata adds, “The locals can become the caretakers of the forests.”
Organic farming is still in its infancy in India compared to countries such as Australia and Germany. Through Mojo Plantation, WAPRED and the Rainforest Retreat, the Goel’s aim to change the perception of organic farming amongst not only the farmers of the Kodagu district but also the city dwellers that visit their rainforest retreat.
About the author and Ennovent
Sujata Goel of Mojo Plantation is a member of the Ennovent Network and you can connect with her to learn more about their organic farming practices.
The Ennovent Network is a global online community of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and experts with whom you can collaborate to accelerate innovations for low-income markets.