One of Auroville’s oldest reforestation projects, Pitchandikulam forest is a 70-acre space that was started with the mission to restore the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests that are unique to the southeast Indian belt. Today, Pitchandikulam is home to more than 400 medicinal plants and many many more indigenous species.
Sometime back, as part of our monthly expert chats, our team had the pleasure of meeting Joss Brooks and his team and hearing from them about their efforts towards regenerating local ecosystems and creating opportunities for the youth to learn about the unique flora fauna of the region.
Work began in 1973, when Joss, a traveller from Tasmania, decided to make the new community of Auroville his home. The hard work of greening the damaged land of Auroville and the arid Pitchandikulam where he now lives, was supported by the constant encouragement and guidance from his spiritual guru in Pondicherry, Mira Alfassa, also fondly called Mother. He says. “She told us that the spirit of the forest and wilderness were there to help if we could connect with it. Mother encouraged us to imagine the possibility of what could be.”
Today, the knowledge and learnings that the stewards of Pitchandikulam have gathered over decades, have spread across and benefited landscapes across the state of Tamil Nadu.
Many of our team members who are from the neighboring villages, were impressed by the team’s commitment towards the preservation of the indigenous, local, biodiversity. While we had crossed the forest many times over the years, for trips and walks, it was the first time for many of us to be learning about the long term environmental impacts of the work been done at Pitchandikulam; their projects with corporations, state governments, local districts as well as schools.
One of the projects that Joss spoke about at length in his presentation was Nadukuppam rural development and knowledge centre project. Nadukuppam is a village around 30 kms from Auroville and with the support of Quaker Service Australia, has been the focus of many of Pitchandikulam’s activities for more than a decade. Their latest efforts in this association with the village are towards creating a knowledge centre. The centre would be a place where one can learn about the indigenous flora and fauna, especially those with ethno-medicinal value. The center is also supposed to be a space where children can come and learn about their own local natural environment.
Many in our team resonate deeply with the cause of educational empowerment and really look forward to seeing first hand the village and the knowledge center. The future is always in the hands of the young and healing our relationship with mother nature can start with instilling a wonder and respect for nature in early childhood itself.
As an organization that is keen to support fellow Auroville units in their tech and design needs, we also wanted to learn about the challenges the Pitchandikulam staff face in their own business.
We were glad to know that two of our teams would be able to fill the requirement gaps, and we look forward to start collaborating with them. In future, we hope to take our team for a forest walk at Pitchandikulam and learn more about the many life forms and the spirit of the living forest from the pioneers themselves.