Mixed planting is a step towards reforestation, says Rishi Walker, during the Auroville cashew harvest
A couple of weeks back, Rishi Walker, a French American forester from Auroville, harvested bags of cashews from his newly acquired forest land he calls Kamataru (tree of love in Sanskrit). With the onset of monsoons, Walker is getting ready for cashew seed collection and sowing for the next season. The evergreen cashew trees form a large part of the Auroville woodland and contribute substantially to reforestation. “Cashews are not native to Pondicherry. Local farmers introduced them in the early 80s to replace millets and peanuts as the new cash crop,” says Walker, who works 12 acres of land that comprises of almost five acres of cashew trees and the rest that he’s shaping into an evergreen foliage.
A part of the Auroville Forest Group, Walker takes us on a tour of his land, which also has avocado and mango trees adding to the 80-odd cashew clusters. “I plant pioneer trees like evergreens, banyans and eucalyptus, along with nurse trees like sugar date palms and tamarind, which grow fast and protect the pioneers from the wind and animals,” says the graduate in human geography from Aix-en-Provence, who learnt the ropes of re-forestation from fellow Aurovillian Jeantwo-Banyan, a fellow forester, before setting out on his own. Quiz him on what city breeders like us can do to make a difference and he says, “Start by growing a seed orchard in your backyard. Trees like ebony and the medicinal bullet-wood are ideal for the city.” Walker also consults on forest restoration, planting and bio-mass conservation with companies such as the ITC group and other private companies.
Pics: Pattabi Raman