In 2003, Israeli citizen Aviram Rozin left his job, moved to India along with his wife Yorit, and daughter Osher, and 13 years later transformed 70 acres of barren land into ‘Sadhana Forest.’ The dynamic eco-friendly settlement consists of thatched houses, a wind pump, solar powered LED lighting, compost toilets, and vegan kitchen with energy efficient stoves.
The transformation actually began in 2000 when Rozin, tired of living a mundane corporate life, visited India as a tourist to get lost for a while in the old green forests. He was happy to have found the thick forests in the southern Indian state of Kerala, but he was completely taken aback seeing the depleting forests as he reached the concrete jungle of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Shocked by this sudden ecological change within a short distance, he decided to do something about it.
He went back to his country, left his job, relocated to India and spent a major part of his savings to buy 70 acres of barren land at Auroville (130 kilometer from Chennai). With the help of local volunteers he then transformed the eroded piece of land into a forest, teeming with life and greenery.
Both my wife and I really wanted to devote our lives to service. It is about devoting our lives for good. There is something about indigenous forestry that enables you to give service without any remuneration. The trees grow so slow you don’t want to cut them for timber. The mission at first was to plant trees. Now the mission is also to support people in terms of growing food on trees. We are also supporting the learning and transformation of young people that come to volunteer – which are many. Sadhana Forest has evolved into something more than we expected – which is beautiful.
Rozin aims to introduce a growing number of people to sustainable living, food security through ecological transformation, wasteland reclamation and veganism.
“Our energy and resources are focused on the creation of a vibrant, indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF). We planted more than 29,000 Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest plants of 160 different indigenous species, and are constantly mulching and caring for them. Survival rate in the average is between 80% – 90%. The main aim of this ecological project is to support the local rural villages: By retaining water and filling the aquifer, Sadhana Forest India allows the villagers to cultivate their food and prevents exodus towards nearby city slums.”
Some 18,000 indigenous trees have been planted so far on 70 acres of mostly eroded land. More than 150 young volunteers from all over the world live in the settlement at any given time planting trees, building bunds and experiencing a simple ecologically conscious life. They work tirelessly for the forest without getting any monetary benefit in return. So what keeps them motivated? Lark Rodman, a long-time volunteer from USA, told The Better India:
“I came to Sadhana Forest because I was looking for a place where sustainability wasn’t just a catch phrase, a place where living sustainably could be a practiced reality. At Sadhana Forest, everything from the food we eat and how it is prepared to our water consumption to the use and reuse of every kind of waste is approached with a deep consciousness of its effect on the environment as well as the community.”
Rozin is on a roll; he has also taken his Sadhana Forest model to Haiti and Kenya. In 2010, Sadhana Forest Haiti was started; to build a community dedicated to planting trees. So far 80,000 food bearing trees have been distributed and planted in the local community. With the current survival rate, this vast quantity of trees has the potential of feeding 70,000 people. In 2014, Sadhana Forest Kenya was started with the aim to grow food forests with the Samburu people, helping to promote food security in an area that is often affected by droughts and malnutrition.
— Anita Oosterlee (@AnitaOost87) August 3, 2015
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