On July 31, 2006, the 17 acre main body of the pointReturn site was formally registered. It took until the December 21, 2006 to buy an additional 0.91 cents on which to lay an all weather access road. But that didn’t quite start off the project. I had to wait until April, 2007 for the fields to be harvested of a standing peanut crop, before the road could be laid. Still, there are significant achievements on view. How that happened is a story of disappointments that led to workarounds and it could be of some value to other beginners. Throughout this article, there are […more] markers that will lead you to detailed stories on the topic.
When I stood first on the piece of sloping wasteland by the hillock, I fell in love with it.[…more] It challenged and beckoned me to show my commitment as a steward of nature’s regeneration process. I knew the one access from the west, was indirect, rutted, and inaccessible during the rains. I had to park my car half a kilometre away and carry water, food and tools through rock strewn path along the foot of the hillock. You can spare yourself that ordeal. So, my first advise would be that you ensure you have a motorable access before you buy land; but then if you are a romantic -and it’s useful to be one, to pursue such dreams- you will probably disregard this advise.
I have sat in the treeless terrain on many days to figure out how I would begin. It was used as a shortcut between two villages and cattle grazed whatever stunted growth there was. Two old shepherds would come and sit by me and tell me stories of the land and ask why I had bought the forsaken lot. There was a well nearby and it had water at 15′ and so I was optimistic. “Don’t go by it”, they cautioned. “There’s water because the well has not been used for more than a few weeks in its twenty years. If you began to pump, it will go dry in under an hour. You are going to struggle for water.” That was a prophetic statement.
The land where the well stands had been gifted to Vinobha Bhave as part of the Boodhan movement in the sixties. A common well was dug to serve five poor allottees and they were left to themselves after that. Without hand-holding and support for several years, such a terrain cannot be farmed. For several decades before the well was dug, the land had stood bald and flushed by annual run offs. The land needed care and restoration. In the euphoria of the first season, the allottees had sown a millet. The harvest was insignificant and their will had been broken.
The shepherds of course, had emerged out of the practices of their childhoods. Then, land shaping,water saving, native seeds and minimum input farming had been the practice. Produce was for personal consumption first, and then for cash. They have since witnessed the ‘green revolution’ replete with borewells, submersible pumps, free electricity, tractors, chemical fertilisers and pesticides and market demands dictating crop selection. So, they wondered how I was going to get a well dug that was generous enough to sustain a 5 HP pump, I’d no doubt be installing.