Issue 7
Monday, 02 September 2019
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Dr Kamal Melvani is committed to transferring her food security knowledge to communities worldwide
Dr Kamal Melvani is committed to transferring her food security knowledge to communities worldwide

Researcher links food security with forest farming

By Kaye Hall

After six years of intensive study, Dr Kamal Melvani recently completed her PhD on the value of forest gardens. She has spent the past 20 years understanding why farmers in Sri Lanka value forest gardens, including how they manage rainfall variability and pest control.

“Forest farming provides both food security and nutrition diversity,” Dr Melvani said.

“Water is the most important thing.”

In Sri Lanka, farmers intentionally cultivate a diverse range of food-producing plants in their forest gardens. Instead of clear felling land and cultivating crops such as monoculture, forest gardens mix a diverse range of food producing plants and maintain rich soil nutrition.

Dr Melvani said she was committed to transferring this knowledge to communities worldwide. To work in Australia, she said she realised she would need to understand the Australian conditions and enrolled in Propagation with Horticulture Lecturer Robyn Wing. Late last year, she began a combined Certificate II and III in Horticulture.

“Most people graduate from VET to academia, but I went the other way,” Dr Melvani said.

“I was so impressed with the calibre, knowledge and absolute dedication of the teachers that I came back to do the whole course.”

According to Dr Melvani, learning about the Australian situation was critical to working in land rehabilitation or horticulture in Australia. She recommended that international students intending to work in land rehabilitation or horticulture in Australia consider doing a Horticulture or Conservation and Land Management course at CDU.

“It allows you to make the transition very quickly and work easily in the field very quickly,” she said.

After a short break in Sri Lanka, Dr Melvani will be back to complete her Certificate II and III in Horticulture. She has projects starting in North Australia, Mongolia and Brazil.

“We can take what we know about forest gardens and work with communities to engage in agronomy on a bigger scale,” Dr Melvani said.

“The knowledge stays in the community into the future.”