Article Rainforest Retreat , Madikeri - started by Sujata Goel and Anurag Goel, trained biologists!

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    Bio-diversity rich farm and home-stay showcases to live in harmony with nature

    Biologists by qualification, Ms. (Dr.) Sujata Goel and Mr. (Dr.) Anurag Goel stepped away from laboratory research life to live closer to the land in a more natural environment. “We left behind the rat race of urban living in 1994 to explore an organic way of life and reside in agreement with natural world. Together we set up Mojo Plantation in 25 acres. We named it so because ‘Mojo’ means ‘Magic charm’, in old blues songs and it is truly magical to live in the place that is surrounded by hills and densely forested valleys,” shares Ms. Sujata as the drive to venture into farming. The farm is located at Western Ghats of Kodagu (Coorg) district in southern Karnataka.
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    After few years Goel couple allowed outsiders to experience the magic of their Majo Plantation commencing the agri tourism endeavour, Rainforest Retreat. It is an exclusive project that combines tourism with sustainable agriculture and environmental education. Describing the unique features she says, “Our farmland is composed of hills and valleys, riddled with streams and forests. The crops are grown under the shade of the rain forest trees. There is abundant biodiversity, and all our farming practices are based upon ecologically sustainable principles.” About 40% of the total area is occupied for farming, 20% has eco-lodges and other built up are while rest is forest, streams, water ponds or fallow areas.

    Rainforest Retreat offers cottages and tents for the stay. These are built using local building materials with emphasize to blend it with the forest ecosystem. The rooms and other living spaces have been designed in alliance with what the terrain offers. These are very comfortable and secured far away from the extravagant accessories. Entire architecture and design has been solely done by Mr. Anurag without any assistance from professional architect!
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    “We use alternative energy like solar heating for hot water supply, and photovoltaic cells for lights. Recycling of all materials is of prime importance to us hence sewage waste is treated microbially and composted back into the soil,” he informs. The occupancy capacity is 20-25 guests. “We also offer Faraway Cottage for long-term stay. It is secluded, self-service, has kitchen facilities and western bathroom with a traditional fire- hot water system.”

    Guests are served traditional nutrient rich food. Entire meal is cooked using bio-gas produced at in-house gobar-gas plant. During their stay at Rainforest Retreat they invest their time in appreciating nature, trekking, site seeing and engaging in farming activities. Crops grown at the plantation are cardamom, coffee, black pepper, vanilla, kokam, fruits and some tree spices. “We also grow seasonal fruits and vegetables on a small scale,” shares Ms. Sujata.
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    As it is a 100% organic farm hence all native breeds of cattle and goats are reared predominantly for providing manure for compost. “All organic waste is composted and recycled back into the land. Composting uses a rich diversity of microorganisms,” asserts Ms. Sujata. The livestock graze freely on grasslands surrounding the sholas in the region, and their feed is supplemented with rice bran.

    Speaking of safeguarding the farm from pest attack or disease she says, “We have created conditions around the farm to encourage rich biodiversity both above and below ground.

    An ecological balance, between the insects and its predators has kept our fields disease-free. We encourage an increase in the populations of spiders, dragon flies, mantids, birds, amphibians, and all the other species which make up this extremely complex micro-ecosystem.”
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    Mrs. and Mr. Goel didn’t have the farming background but turned farmers. They consider the rain forest ecosystem as their great teacher! When asked about the problems faced in this new role, Mr. Anurag says, “If one plans and lives within ecological balances, problems are minimized. Our focus then moves towards improving composting techniques, making the system work- and energy-efficient, and ensuring that the health of our livestock is maintained well.”

    Awareness on Rainforest Retreat has been created through the website and word of mouth publicity. In addition to home stay, “We also take the opportunity to spread awareness about the necessity of clean agriculture, and ecological fragility of these amazing forests. We do this through by conducting workshops and special educational programs. We hope to continue with our educational programs so that the next generation can do better with the little ecological wealth that still remains on our planet,” he highlights.

    Certainly Goel couple is happy and contended about their decision to move to countryside and living in agreement with the nature. They conclude, “We hope our children to undo the damage which our generation has done to this planet.”

    Contact details:
    Rainforest Retreat
    P.O. Box 101, Madikeri 571201, Kodagu, Karnataka, India
    Phone: 91 8272 265638, 265636, 201428, 08277690302

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