Skip to main content

'Indigenous options ignored': Govt of India prefers ecologically disruptive palm oil trees

By Bharat Dogra* 

Recent government policy has resorted to huge promotion of exotic palm oil trees to end edible oil shortage in the country. However this is associated with highly disruptive ecological costs, as has been seen from the experience of several countries. The kind of high rainfall conditions needed for its high yield are not readily available in India and this will lead to heavy extraction of already scarce groundwater. Plans of its large scale introduction in ecologically fragile regions have already faced much criticism.
A much better option would be to explore the potential of several indigenous trees which yield oilseeds from which edible oil can be obtained.
There are several such indigenous trees which can provide edible oils, such as mahua, karanj, sal, kokum, kusum etc. (not to mention coconut, which is already well established as a supplier of edible oil). Some of these trees are known and some are not so well-known and need to be explored further. The edible oil contained from some of these trees is known to be very good for nutrition and to be rich in poly unsaturated fats, important for nutrition.
Availability of edible oils can increase significantly even from already existing trees. However once this importance is realized and conscious efforts are made to increase these trees, then edible oil availability for domestic use (particularly in tribal community areas) as well as for export markets for niche uses, including medicinal value, can increase even more significantly.
However it will be a mistake to grow these trees as plantation crops. This will be harmful for biodiversity, environment and food security. It will be much better for all families in a tribal community to grow two additional such trees each on their land. In this way about two to four hundred additional oilseed trees can grow in each village, and about 200,000 villages in India are likely to be suitable for growing these trees.
As almost all of these trees have multiple uses for their fruits, flowers, seeds, leaves etc., benefits for these farmers and villagers will be many. Mahua tree can provide very nutritious and filling food which is all the more useful in lean season and drought years, its fodder is also very useful while at the same time the use of its flower as an intoxicant should be minimized.
Cooperatives of farmers and villagers to collect tree oilseeds can be set up to ensure a fair price. However instead of selling these to big processors, value addition can be obtained by local processing.
There are several such indigenous trees which can provide edible oils, such as mahua, karanj, sal, kokum, kusum
Local processing units in all these villages should be set up, particularly to extract oil but also to process other produce of these trees. This local processing will generate more livelihoods, while the residue (after oil extraction) will provide nutritive feed for animals and organic fertilizer for farms.
The potential for this is the highest in tribal communities, but certainly potential exists in other villages also for various communities.
Isn’t it irrational that the authorities are ignoring this potential but instead going in for the ecologically disruptive option of palm oil plantation?
There are also trees like neem whose oil may not be used for cooking but has important medicinal uses. Then there are other trees which provide non-edible oil with several uses such as for soap making and can be used for cottage scale units of soap or other products of everyday use.
In addition there is much potential for better protection and improvement of coconut trees which have so many different uses apart from providing edible oils.
There is a strong case for giving much more attention to all indigenous trees which provide edible oils and for providing many more sustainable livelihoods on the basis of their various products including oilseeds, with the added caution that these indigenous trees should be grown not as big monoculture plantations but instead in their usual natural way co-existing with all biodiversity.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food', ‘Man over Machine' and ‘Planet in Peril'

Comments

TRENDING

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Anti-poor stand': Even British wouldn't reduce Railways' sleeper and general coaches

By Anandi Pandey, Sandeep Pandey*  Probably even the British, who introduced railways in India, would not have done what the Bhartiya Janata Party government is doing. The number of Sleeper and General class coaches in various trains are surreptitiously and ominously disappearing accompanied by a simultaneous increase in Air Conditioned coaches. In the characteristic style of BJP government there was no discussion or debate on this move by the Indian Railways either in the Parliament or outside of it. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Why convert growing badminton popularity into an 'inclusive sports opportunity'

By Sudhansu R Das  Over the years badminton has become the second most popular game in the world after soccer.  Today, nearly 220 million people across the world play badminton.  The game has become very popular in urban India after India won medals in various international badminton tournaments.  One will come across a badminton court in every one kilometer radius of Hyderabad.  

Faith leaders agree: All religious places should display ‘anti-child marriage’ messages

By Jitendra Parmar*  As many as 17 faith leaders, together for an interfaith dialogue on child marriage in New Delhi, unanimously have agreed that no faith allows or endorses child marriage. The faith leaders advocated that all religious places should display information on child marriage.

How embracing diversity enriched my life, brought profound sense of joy

By Mike Ghouse*  If you can shed the bias towards others, you'll love the connections with every human that God or his systems have created. This gives a sense of freedom and brings meaning and joy to life. Embracing and respecting how people dress, eat, and practice their beliefs becomes an enriching experience.

Ayurveda, Sidda, and knowledge: Three-day workshop begins in Pala town

By Rosamma Thomas*  Pala town in Kottayam district of Kerala is about 25 km from the district headquarters. St Thomas College in Pala is currently hosting a three-day workshop on knowledge systems, and gathered together are philosophers, sociologists, medical practitioners in homeopathy and Ayurveda, one of them from Nepal, and a few guests from Europe. The discussions on the first day focused on knowledge systems, power structures, and epistemic diversity. French researcher Jacquiline Descarpentries, who represents a unique cooperative of researchers, some of whom have no formal institutional affiliation, laid the ground, addressing the audience over the Internet.

Hindutva economics? 12% decline in manufacturing enterprises, 22.5% fall in employment

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The messiah of Hindutva politics, Narendra Modi, assumed office as the Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014. He pledged to transform the Indian economy and deliver a developed nation with prosperous citizens. However, despite Modi's continued tenure as the Prime Minister, his ambitious electoral promises seem increasingly elusive. 

Banned Maoist party protests in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, claims support across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  Despite being a banned and designated as terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 2009, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is said to have successfully implemented a one-day bandh across Kolhan division in Jharkhand on July 10th, with repurcussions in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The bandh was called to protest against alleged police brutality in the Kolhan-Saranda region.