Arunachala-The Forest Way
Greetings from Arunachala. Over the years you have all supported our work here re-greening the sacred Hill. Some of you are old friends, some of you we've never met. Since we started the work of Greening, our focus has always been the work on the ground, and we have been pretty terrible on the public relations front. It took us five years to formalize the project, which we had been calling the Mountain of Medicine, into a legal entity, which we called The Forest Way. It took another few years to create a website, The Forest Way which gives an idea of our work.
Anyway, all this is by way of a rambling apology to all of you who have given generously in various ways over the years, and who, while in our thoughts, have not been kept up to date with our work. We will try and rectify that from here on, and sorry for being so slack in the past.
Since we started in 2003, the reforestation work has continued solidly. The nursery on the Hill raises more than 25,000 saplings every year, of over 100 different native species. Some of these are given to local schools, some go to village tree planting efforts, but the majority go to the slopes of Arunachala, where they are planted at the beginning of the rains. Our survival rate has been very heartening, and huge areas of the mountain are now covered with young plants. But far more important has been the success in preventing and controlling the forest fires. This has been an extraordinary effort by the people involved, sometimes fighting bush-fires through the night with the barest of equipment, or without even water to drink. We also create fire-breaks, many kilometres of lines 10 metres wide, over which all ground vegetation is removed to prevent the fires spreading.
The result of all this has been an amazing flowering of life on the Hill. There are now extensive areas where one can walk in the shade of an emerging canopy. Other areas may appear to be covered in grass from afar, but when one gets closer, one sees that young trees are coming through in profusion. Along with this explosion of plant life, there has been a parallel flourishing of animal life. We have recorded over 120 species of birds on and around the mountain. The deer and porcupine populations have grown such that they are now a pain for tree planters like ourselves. Two species of civet cat, two species of mongoose, langurs and macaques, hares, wild boar and jungle cats are all out there, as well as the rare and elusive pangolin and the rusty spotted cat. We have seen 20 species of snakes, and have just begun to record the amazing diversity of butterflies.
At the foot of the Hill, close to Sri Ramanasramam, the parks that we have created have protected over 30 acres of common land from the development that is rampantly eating up the land all around the mountain. The children's park is hugely popular and known and loved by all, and provides a great deal of good will toward the project. We maintain it free to all and it is a unique space in the fabric of the town. Adjacent, the Forest Park is soon to open to the public, but has already been welcoming school groups for years, providing a vital connection to the land for young hearts often starved of such.
Some years back, we also started a small school (Marudam Farm School - Tiruvannamilai), exploring ways of learning holistically in the particular context of our local land and community. The school now has 70 children, who come from all backgrounds. A majority of the children are sponsored. The schools sits in the midst of an organic farm, where many of the people living and working on the project also now live. The farm feeds the school children, supplying their daily lunch and snacks, and the kids are in touch with the goings on on the land. Craft, theatre, art and body-work form a major part of their day, as well as the inevitable academics. One morning per week is spend exploring the slopes of Arunachala, and each in their own way, every child is a naturalist.
Between all of its different areas, the Forest Way has a staff of more than 70 local people. Most of them have grown with the work over the years and are very dedicated to the project. We are also a learning and growing space for young volunteers looking to explore alternatives to the dominant paradigm. Many of these young people end up staying and becoming part of the ever growing family.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you for all your contributions, interest and good wishes throughout the years! We still rely entirely on individual donations and the generosity of people moved by the work we love doing. For some years we were not permitted to receive overseas funding due to government regulations, but that is no longer the case. If you are inspired to make a contribution, details can be found in the "The Forest Way" section of the website (we no longer have a paypal account). If you feel moved to get in touch, to visit, or to be involved in some other way, all would be very welcome.
Do feel free to write back to this e-mail account, and it is advisable to also cc it to my wife Leela, who is a better communicator than I (email@example.com).
With love and gratitude to all from all of us here,
Govinda and the Forest Way gang.
The Forest Way
The Forest Way is a Charitable Trust based in Thiruvannamalai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India.
Marudam Farm School - Tiruvannamilai
Marudam Farm School, Tiruvannamilai
The Forest Way
1.Sending a cheque You can send us a cheque directly from within India or from anywhere in the world. Please include a covering note giving your full name, address, and email id.
last updated 27/11/2014
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