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pioneering today on Auroville land

Aurovilians Steve (from USA) and Sydo (from the Netherlands) are creating a forest patch on an isolated piece of land, called Udoumbu, in the Green Belt between the communities of Two Banyans and Utility. There are 7.88 acres, of which 6.55 have been grazing land for the past 15 to 30 years, and 1.33 acres is a cashew tope.

Forest, exotics and fruits

There is a reasonable amount of topsoil, which gives the land good potential. The cashews are not young and a few are dying. We plan to interplant the tope and slowly phase out the cashew trees. The rest of the land will be forest, of which we plan 60 to 70% to be species of the original tropical dry evergreen forest that covered this region centuries ago, and the rest would be exotics and fruit (jack, mango, lemon, passion fruit, etc.) trees. We plan also a nursery in the cashew tope.

We intend to put half an acre aside for seasonal dry land cropping like varagu, ragi, wild dry rice, or red rice and to use acre for vegetables, flowers, lemon grass, etc.

Progress thus far

We have installed a 75-metre deep well with solar water pump. Solar will also supply our other electrical needs. The land was already about 80% prepared by the Forest Group with earthen dams, when we began in the second week of December 2000. Meanwhile, we have finished all earthen dams, fenced the plot, and nearly completed a storeroom-cum-temporary residence for Steve and a small house for Sydo.

Model for farmers in the bioregion

We would like to explore possibilities of making the indigenous forest patches economically viable, not only for Auroville, but also as a model for farmers in the bioregion to modify their monoculture. Now that we have a well and sufficient water to cover dry spells, we hope to begin planting during the summer monsoon and will continue in successive layers over the next years. We are open to expanding to 20 or 40 acres, as more land becomes available.

Gripping tightly

The name, Udoumbu, comes from a Tamil expression "Udoumbu poodi", which means, "to grip very tightly". It originated in the old days when people would tie a rope around a monitor lizard and throw it up on fortress walls. The Udoumbu would grab on in some crevasse, and the person would climb up the rope. It is said that even an elephant could be hauled up the rope - the grip is so strong.

We thought that this was an appropriate concept for pioneering a new piece of land - strong determination. However, we felt that 'udumpu poodi' might be a bit difficult for people to remember, so it was shortened to simply 'Udoumbu'. For us, the Udoumbu is an indicator species for a healthy environment.


From the Land Fund Newsletter # 16, March 01

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