I recently finished a stint of three and a half months at Sadhana Forest. This is a reforestation community in Auroville, in the state of Tamil Nadu, in South India. But it is so much more than a reforestation project – it is truly a unique community, with particular very strongly held and maintained values.
To name a few of the core values: veganism, sustainable living, non-competition, the educational philosophy of ‘unschooling’, and gift economy, among others. Sadhana Forest is a volunteer community, operated entirely by volunteers (long and short-term). Besides the original Sadhana Forest in South India where I stayed, they have also recently opened projects in Haiti (in 2010), and Kenya (just recently in 2014), where they are working on Reforestation of depleted regions, and particularly in these two new camps, on planting food-bearing trees to contribute to food security. The work that is being done in these places is clearly very important: these latter two are impoverished regions, where the land has been depleted and where food security is a major issue. In Sadhana Forest India, the focus is primarily on Reforestation and Water conservation rather than on Food security; but here, the water table has been raised by over 6 metres (I know, it sounds like a lot to me also!), during the 11 or so years since Sadhana was founded.
The model of work at Sadhana Forest is quite beautiful: it is entirely a volunteer model. The work done is referred to as “Seva,” a Sanskrit word meaning “Selfless Service.”