New projects have been in the works lately around the ecovillage and it’s been quite exciting.
First, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on creating a food forest. The idea behind a food forest is that multiple varieties of plants are planted to create several layers of food producing flora.
Above is a picture of the food forest we’re planting. As you can see, there are several mature coconut palms already in place. The palms, along with rudraksha trees we will be planting, comprise the top layer of our food forest. The mid layer of our food forest will consist of papaya, mango, almond, banana, and several other species of fruit trees native to India. Other than a few mature papaya trees you can see in the photo, most of the trees I mentioned are still seedlings we have planted. Finally, the bottom layer consists of tomato, gourd, lady fingers, corn, and many other fruit and vegetable plants. We’re just planting this layer now.
We like the idea of a food forest for a lot of reasons. Firstly, a major problem we’ve encountered in our farms in India is that crops tend to get scorched by the hot sun. We’ve found beds tend to do best when the fall beneath the shade of a tree. Creating a tree canopy for an entire field is a logical extension of this idea. Another reason beds might do better under trees is that there is significant biological evidence that biodiversity improves the soil by allowing plants to share beneficial root microbes and fungi with each other. Obviously in the wild, plants don’t pop up in nice square beds containing one and only one species, so this idea makes sense. Finally, we think the food forests will increase crop yields because of the vertical stacking of the food-bearing layers.
John Keisner, the westerner who is overseeing the project to export the Amritapuri ecovillage model to 101 Indian villages, has been working extensively with our group and observing our work. If this food forest idea turns out well (and I think it will), there’s a good chance it will end up in lots of Indian villages around the country!
Another project I’ve been working on has been recycling clean up. This involves trekking around with a big cart and picking up plastic, construction materials, and other waste that’s been left lying around on the side of the road or elsewhere. It’s a little frustrating because the work is seemingly never ending. Nonetheless I’ve been inspired by the importance of reclaiming land that’s full of waste. Below is a picture of a corner of the tea farm where the locals had been dumping garbage. I pulled out as much waste as I could, then laid down several feet of organic material. Once the stuff composts, I’m hoping to plant some vegetables there to discourage people from dumping waste.