Sadhana Forest: a vegan, ecological reforestation project in India

This article was compiled from the Sadhana Forest website.

Sadhana Forest – an ecological revival and sustainable living project – was started on December 19th 2003.  The vision of its founders, Yorit and Aviram Rozin, was to transform 70 acres of severely eroded, arid land on the outskirts of Auroville in India. In a spirit of human unity, their aim was 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).

The main aim of this ecological project is to support the local rural villages. By retaining water and filling the local aquifer, Sadhana Forest India allows the villagers to cultivate their food and helps prevent exodus to the nearby city slums. 

Environmental education for all

We include as many children and young people in the process of ecological revival and sustainable living as we can. Our aim is to encourage them to share and propagate our vision of an ecologically responsible and sustainable way of living, and for them to help take urgent actions that are necessary for the future of their environment.

Children and young people from nearby Tamil villages take an enthusiastic and active part in this project. They, of course, have no memory of the great, ancient, coastal forest that once extended from northern Tamil Nadu down to Kanyakumari in the south, a forest that was destroyed many decades before they were born. Our dream is to create, with their participation, the opportunity for them to experience the original forest of their forebears. For most, it is their first ‘hands-on’ experience in sustainable living, an exciting and transformative experience for them.

Sadhana Forest won third place in the Humanitarian Water and Food Award (WAF) in 2010. Shri Ashok Kumar Attri, the Indian Ambassador to Denmark, honored Sadhana Forest by attending the ceremony.  This award is an international recognition of the quality of the ecological and humanitarian work done by Sadhana Forest in India and Haiti.

Haiti

In April, 2010 we started Sadhana Forest Haiti. Our aim in Haiti is to create a huge food forest with local and international volunteers to provide nutrition to the town of Anse-a-Pitre in the south eastern corner of Haiti. This is one of the poorest communities in the world, and we feel inspired to create a long-term sustainable solution for their acute challenges. Sadhana Forest Haiti has trained more than 7,000 Haitians in agroforestry and water conservation. 80,000 food bearing trees have been distributed and planted with the local communities.  This amount of trees has the potential to feed 70,000 people.

Kenya

In Kenya Sadhana Forest is establishing its third locality in Samburu County. Sadhana Forest Kenya’s aim is to grow food forests with the Samburu people to help promote food security in an area that is often affected by droughts and malnutrition.

Sustainable infrastructure was installed that can host local and international volunteers. All structures are built from local natural materials. A 5,000 Watt solar system, 16 dry composting toilets, and a grey water system have been installed. Water infrastructure has been built that enables the watering of trees on 30% of the land.

Milestones

Below is a brief overview of our milestones since we started Sadhana Forest in December 2003.

Sadhana Forest March 2005

Sadhana Forest November 2012

From the day in 2013 that we moved into Sadhana Forest (which was then totally barren land) to January, 2014 we have 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 on average is between 80% – 90%. Survival rate does not fall below 70% even on the most degraded soil.

Water table recharge and conservation

More than 20 kilometers of trenches have been dug and eight earth dams have been built, altogether storing more than 50,000 cubic meters of rain water.  As a result of this work underground water level has risen by six meters from an average of eight metres deep during 2003 (before Sadhana Forest was started) to an average of two metres during 2007 after four years of intensive water conservation work.

Outreach and Education

  • A very warm friendship has developed between us and the local villagers. We work together to regenerate and protect our area. The project is very frequently visited by local people, especially kids. Every visitor is welcome and gets an explanation of the project and its value to the environment.
  • More than 7,000 volunteers, interns, and students from India and around the world have lived and worked in Sadhana Forest for periods of 2 weeks to 36 months.  Accommodation in Sadhana Forest is always free.
  • Thousands of children from the surrounding villages and from Auroville have planted TDEF trees.  Over 200 kids are regularly caring for the trees they planted on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
  • Twenty Ecological Living workshops were given as part of the Auroville Winter Integral Studies Program. In total more than 600 people attended these workshops.
  • The second Van Utsav (Indian Forest Festival) was hosted in March 2006, with attendance of over 100 people from all over India.
  • During the festival lots of relevant up-to-date environmental information and skills were exchanged between the participants.
  • A group of students from Plymouth State University, New Hampshire stayed in Sadhana Forest with their professor in January 2008 and their experiences are described at: https://www.plymouth.edu/magazine/archive/features/sense-sustainability/
  • In June 2008, we started the Eco-Film Club. Every Friday we host 50-550 guests for a free environment film screening, a tour of the project, and free vegan dinner.

Children’s Land

On December 27th, 2009 Sadhana Forest started a project called Children’s Land. This 2.7 acre project is aimed at involving local people in the world of sustainability in a way that empowers them to be creative and think independently. In Children’s Land the children are initiating the different activities or joining them as they please.  The feedback we are getting from the children, their parents and teachers is excellent and encourages us to continue and enlarge this project.