Sadhana Forest – The Community That Turned Barren Land Into A Sustainable Habitat

 Jessica Halpern
Jessica Halpern Jessica Halpern

From plastic waste to toxic fumes and carbon emission – there’s no denying that humans, as a race, pick convenience and our own comfort over being environmentally-friendly. While our irresponsibility towards the planet has now caught up with us, there are those few eco warriors that are fighting hard to recycle and replenish our home planet. Aviram Rozin, is one such man, whose work has inspired a multitude of people around the world to move towards a more sustainable, and all-round peaceful lifestyle.

Taking a break from corporate life, Aviram made his way to India in 2000 to explore the riches the subcontinent had to offer. As he made his way from the lush forests of Kerala northwards heading to larger urban centres, he was shocked by the depleting green cover – he was back in the concrete jungle he strived to escape from. While he could have just carried on, as a lot of us do, Aviram had other plans in mind.

In 2003, he, along with his wife Yorit and daughter Osher, left home in Israel and bought 70 acres of land in a barren part of Auroville, Tamil Nadu. With years of toil, help from the community and pretty much most of their life’s saving, the Rozin’s hard work paid off and the once-barren land was slowly transforming into a forest.

Having planted seeds of endangered species and edible plants from the region, Aviram’s mission was coming to fruition as over time the Sadhana Forest community was formed.

Water, trees, people – Sadhana Forest centres its work and ideological lifestyle around these three aspects. Thatched houses, solar-powered lighting, compost toilets and over 18000 trees now make up the eco-friendly settlement.

Aviram Rozin with the residents of Sadhana Forest; source: Winds and Waves - Institute Of Cultural Affairs International

Sadhana Forest targets a range of problems that promote sustainable living, one of their major ones being water conservation. “Our aim is to achieve, as close as we can, zero water run-off,” their website reads. Their conservation plan has been centred around bunding, building check dams and redirecting water runoff to forested areas. This project has been incredibly successful for them so far – they have witnessed a significant rise in the local water table in the Auroville area, of 6 metres. The members of Sadhana Forest minimise water wastage in almost every way possible – they even use hand pumps in their kitchens rather than taps.

The Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest covered many parts of India, particularly the Southeast. As the country is becoming increasingly industrialised, the relevance of these forests – composed of a total of six vegetative elements, including lianas, epiphytes and tuberous species – is steadily decreasing. It is on the verge of extinction – only 0.01% of it exists now. Sadhana Forest India’s project is aimed at reforesting the components of these degraded forests, and is working to draw attention to these forests in order to stress the need for its conservation.

At the heart of Sadhana Forest lies its people. They have had more than 5000 volunteers so far, that have accelerated their projects centred around forest and water conservation. In 2009, they initiated their Children’s Land project, in which local children are given their own plot of land to design and help build. It teaches them ecologically responsible and sustainable practices, through art and physical activities. Sadhana Forest is making sure its inhabitants learn and grow, and continuously pass on their knowledge of their environment.

Apart from India, Sadhana Forest’s projects have spanned Haiti and Kenya as well. Avirom hopes to keep expanding, and is looking to Morocco next.

Help Rozin and the members of Sadhana Forest in their wonderful endeavours; donate now.

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