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The Role of Forest Farming in Promoting Local Food Security and Community Health

Born and raised in Hyderabad, Sunith is an alumnus of the prestigious Hyderabad Public School and holds a degree in Computer Science from IIT Madras, supported by a full scholarship from the Government of Telangana. He began his career at Yahoo! R&D, creating the Yahoo! Alerts platform, which served over 200 million users and earned […]

Born and raised in Hyderabad, Sunith is an alumnus of the prestigious Hyderabad Public School and holds a degree in Computer Science from IIT Madras, supported by a full scholarship from the Government of Telangana. He began his career at Yahoo! R&D, creating the Yahoo! Alerts platform, which served over 200 million users and earned him a nomination for the Yahoo! Ratna award.

In 2008, Sunith joined Lime Labs, where he discovered algorithmic trading, sparking his interest in blending financial engineering with computer science. When DMA was legalized in India in 2009, he co-founded iRageCapital, one of India’s first algorithmic trading firms, which became a major player with a daily trading turnover exceeding $1 billion. In 2011, Sunith co-founded Quantinsti to promote algorithmic trading education, launching the acclaimed EPAT program. He also ventured into the sharing economy with RentSetGo in 2015. A passionate conservationist, Sunith initiated the eco-tourism project Khetiyo near Corbett National Park, aiming for community-led transformation.

After exiting iRageCapital and RentSetGo, Sunith, along with his co-founder Shaurya, founded Beforest in 2017 to explore collective farming. Today, as CEO of Beforest Lifestyle Solution, Sunith continues to drive the vision of balancing ecological and economic sustainability through community initiatives across multiple Indian states.
Forests, nature’s biggest self-sustaining models, are resilient to climate change and thrive without human intervention. They don’t rely on watering cans or chemical fertilisers; they simply flourish, with diverse wild flora and fauna coexisting and supporting each other in a web-like form rather than neat rows of a single crop. They are the ideal ecosystems that generously and perennially supply us with our daily needs. However, the reality of our food supply and consumption is far from this.

We all value diversity, yet the majority of our food comes from large monoculture farms and plantations, further mass-processed into packaged foods that line every shelf. While the complex unnatural contents of these foods raise quality and health concerns among the masses, their continued supply itself is in question due to global supply chain problems, the climate crisis and geopolitical tensions. This chain of events has resulted in forest depletion and irreparable environmental damage. Looking for abundance akin to forests should not come at the cost of the health and existence of the rich forest ecosystems we have. The world needs a balance between a stable supply of healthy food and ecological wellness, and food forest farming may be the solution.

Beforest, a pioneer in sustainable living solutions, is committed to this cause, working towards food, water and energy security for communities across India. Guided by permaculture - a design framework that relies on local and natural resources to create self-sustaining ecosystems, Beforest is growing “food forests” - farms that look, feel and function like forests. Their efforts have been taking shape in the diverse community-owned landscapes of Coorg, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bhopal. Whether farming cash crops in existing coffee estates or rejuvenating barren landscapes through soil building, permaculture directs thorough research and thoughtful experimentation in all types of environments. Notably, these food forests are not solo entities but parts of larger ecosystems designed for the communities to fulfil their lifestyle needs - from food and water to homes and essential services.

Borrowing from nature, the food forests are designed to include native edible crops growing in layers, emulating a forest’s structure where entangled elements coexist in a small patch. With no synthetic chemical use and only locally concocted natural inputs, these farms further enhance soil fertility and resilience, minimising human footprint to the furthest extent. Over time, as the food forest ecosystem builds, the growing crops start relying on each other for growth, reducing the need and frequency of external inputs.

Forest farming, though a patient process, can be a game-changer for local communities in two ways. First, it offers small yet diverse baskets of healthy, chemical-free produce. Second, due to its diversity, the ecosystem can endure sudden climate shifts and pest attacks, ensuring that even on the most challenging days, not all is lost. Additionally, forest farming can be implemented by groups of any size as long as there’s a commitment and accountability to nature and each other.

Innovation propels progress. While our current farming practices have met our needs so far, they strain the very soil and forests that sustain us. It’s time to invest in more sustainable practices like forest farming. Let’s spin the wheel of change and secure a better future for ourselves and generations to come.

The author is the Sunith Reddy, Co-founder & CEO of Beforest

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