In India, a project is emerging that seeks to place food, farming, conservation and cultural identity back at the heart of life and to marry those important themes to spiritual vision. Anant Van is a small visionary project established on the edge of Bhandavgarh Nature Reserve in the province of Madhyar Pradesh in central India. Two years ago the visionary founder of this project Dhruv Singh bought 40 acres of denuded over-grazed and exhausted farmland and began a process of transformation. He has planted trees, native species from which can be derived a number of nutritious foods and beneficial medicinal products. His long-term aim is to develop a buffer zone of new, indigenous forest around the nature reserve that is home to the largest concentration of wild tigers in India. In addition, the forest products hold out the chance for local communities to derive an income in times when the average farmer in the area earns about $50 per year from his land.
In the light of such low incomes there is little incentive for local farmers to keep farming. The risk is that they will sell up and the land will go to thoughtless developers who will build more and more tourist resorts. Such development will only serve to apply further pressure to the already threatened eco-system that sustains the Indian tiger. It is Dhruv’s hope that the local community can be encouraged not to sell their land to developers He has developed an organic farm, growing a variety of crops that are common to the local diet. What was once a barren and blighted area has been utterly transformed into a rich green and productive mixture of farm and woodland.