Sakleshpur – Coffee, Bio-Diversity and a Tourism Hotspot!
Sakleshpur is a small hill station town and headquarter of Sakleshpur Taluk in Hassan District in Karnataka. Sakaleshpur taluk lies in the Malnad region of the Western Ghats, a mountain range that is older than the Himalaya mountains has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity. The southern range, which includes Bisle Reserve Forest and the region around Sakleshpur is recognised by UNESCO as one of the 18 most diverse spots in the world in terms of flora and fauna. The sub-tropical climate and heavy rains during the wet season create an environment where several unique plant and animal species flourish.
Some believe that the name Sakleshpur is derived from Sakala aishwarya which means ‘Full of wealth’, wealth in terms of an ideal environment for all the spices and commercial crops that the farmers there grow. True to its name this region’s primary mode of employment is agriculture. Crops grown include coffee, rice, pepper, cardamom, ginger and tea with coffee being the most dominant. Sakleshapur coffee is shade grown on the slopes of the Western Ghats. Growing Coffee in this region contributes significantly in sustaining the unique bio- diversity of the region and is also responsible for the socio-economic development in the remote, hilly areas.
Sakleshpur as a tourist or a traveller’s destination became popular only recently. It offer similar sort of temperature and weather to Coorg but much less crowed and far more unexplored places to be discovered for the curious travellers. The increase in number of tourist /travellers to Sakleshpur is mainly because of its easy accessible. The town lies on National Highway 48 which connects port city of Mangalore with capital city Bangalore, of Karnataka state. The drive on NH 48 is very exhilarating especially in the ghat section near Sakleshpur, it is one of the most pleasureable drives. It makes a perfect getaway for people who love nature and seek to have some peaceful time away from the hustle bustle of city's life.
With people of Sakaleshpur being very hospitable, the tourism industry is increasingly embracing the homestay culture and now offers several choices for a weekend getaway. Homestays in Sakaleshpur offers you plenty of wilderness and freshly cooked home food with a taste of the local cuisine. For people who love nature these homestay are perfect, the wilderness of coffee estates provide home to numerous birds, animals and rich in flora. As most of the homestays in Sakleshpur are run by coffee estate owners who usually have the passion for hospitality or just looking for some social life away from their usual planter’s lifestyle. With the increasing costs of labour, maintenance and fast changing weather, the homestay revenue comes as a blessing to many planters.
Most of the coffee plantations were owned by the East India Company when Sakleshpur was known as Munzerabad during the British times. You can distinctively notice the influence of British culture of estate style plantation that a planter still tries to preserve.
Coffee is grown under rustic type of shade which is the least intensive, a traditional practice. With this method, coffee shrubs are planted under a canopy of assorted types of shade trees so there is little alteration to biological diverse ecosystem that exist around. These Coffee Estates are also host to innumerable herbs, shrubs and trees like arecanut, orange, pepper and cardamom. The estates share boundaries with some forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, and play an important role in wildlife conservation in this region. The coffee growing system features minimal management and no use of pesticides or herbicides. For this reason, a shade covered coffee estates may survive economic setbacks by the farmer where an unshaded plantation would not. With high capital-intensive method, the traditional rustic coffee system is marked by a low yield but resulting in organic shade-grown coffee that is rare and most sustainable in nature.
The increase in demand and popularity of coffee has been slowly but surely leading some planters to adopt sun-exposed coffee often with the goal of planting more coffee bushes and doubling coffee yields as opposed to traditional shade grown. This sun-basked practise acidified soil and clear-cut the forest and use large quantities of toxic fertilizers and pesticides to keep their full-sun coffee productive. The increased yields of full-sun coffee come at the expense of the environment drastically affecting the ecosystem of the Western Ghats region and adding to the already experiencing global warming.