Puttur: Agriculturist takes up sandalwood farming to conserve species
Deekshith D V
Daijiworld Media Network - Puttur
Pics: Adarsh Nelyadi
Puttur, Jul 2: “Today the land of sandalwood is seeing its extinction; sandalwood trees are now an endangered species in India,” says Jairam Sharma, owner of a sandalwood nursery in Nelyadi.
Sharma is an agriculturist and his love for nature and concern for the environment led him to cultivate a sandalwood nursery on his 16 acre plot. Sharma started this model nursery ‘Chandana’, under the National Horticulture Mission, National Medicinal Plant Board, to grow the endangered species in 2003.
His mission was to provide more income to farmers and economically empower them, while increasing the extinct species ‘Santalum Album’ and ‘Pterocarpus Santalinus’ that are an asset to the nation and to the government.
Sharma is not only an agriculturist but is an expert on sandalwood plantation. He mourns for man’s perversion towards exploiting nature for his selfish wants.
He also said, “Karnataka is said to be the ‘Land of Sandal’ - ‘Gandhada Nadu’ - but what is the present of condition of this land of sandalwood? Sandalwood trees are reaching extinction. Both Santalum Album and Pterocarpus Santalinus have become endangered species. Even the huge trees in the forest are trampled down by the smuggling mafia.”
Narrating the techniques of sandalwood cultivation, Sharma said, “Basically, sandalwood cultivation is well-suited for dry land. On one hectare, a farmer can cultivate 500 plants. Today, in Australia, sandalwood cultivation has become a regular crop.”
“Cultivated plants can be grown for 25 to 30 years, but it is viable at the age of 15 years and it gets good market value. The cost of a sandalwood plant depends on its age and height. Basically, the Santalum Album is a semi root parasitic plant. Sandalwood plant can also be cultivated as a mixed crop between Mango or Sapodilla plantations. Seeds of this plant can be used for fat extraction for soaps and detergents. Apart from this, it can be also used as cereal grains for food but it is not affordable to the common man,” says Sharma form his experience of cultivation.
“India is pioneer of sandalwood and East Indian sandalwood has wide demand and market throughout the world because of its quality. Till 2001, there was restriction on growing sandalwood. In 2001, the Act was amended with regard to growing sandalwood trees in Karnataka, where in 2003 the state government implemented the Act on growing and cutting sandalwood trees without any restrictions. But a farmer has to sell the sandalwood to government-owned bodies like Karnataka Soap Factory, Karnataka Handicraft Emporium, or to Karnataka Forest Department. Unfortunately, a farmer doesn’t have an open market for sandalwood,” said Sharma.
Sharma sells sandalwood plants from his nursery in states like Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa, but selling is not the sole aim. He also visits such places to check the condition of plants he has sold.
Talking on the products and demand of Red Sanders, he said, “Red Sanders is also used in preparing music instruments and idols especially which are exported to Japan. So, it has wide demand in the world.”
Sharma, feeling proud about his profession, says, “This profession gives me more peace and happiness where one can show love towards nature. If the market for sandalwood falls, no matter, but we can save this earth from global warming.”
As Franklin D Roosevelt said, “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”