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Not for the first time we have to apologise for the long interval which has elapsed between the last newsletter and this one.

However, the astonishing progress which has been made will, we hope, make the wait worthwhile.

MAY is the hottest month in Tamil Nadu with temperatures often over 40 degrees so most of the farm work is done in the early morning and evening. Chilli plants are still cropping well, sesame is growing and is used as a cooking oil and for skin protection. Maize is being grown for animal fodder – thorn fencing has been erected around it so that it is not eaten by inquisitive wild animals! 100kg. of maize for human consumption was harvested on 2nd. June.
So far nothing has been grown on area 133/2a as the soil condition is extremely poor. However maize is a very tolerant plant so will be the first crop to be planted here. A total of 100kgs. of onions have been harvested.

Our most distant parcel of land (26/4) which was originally intended to be a social forest area is now being considered for planting with a special type of thornless bamboo which is not on sharp-eyed wild animals’ menu list so does not need any protection! The government will supply the saplings. It is coppiced and harvested every 5th. year, stores a high amount of CO2, has a ready sale for its numerous uses – such as scaffolding and roof beams – and is suitable for arid areas.

Several farmers’ support groups have been set up in adjacent villages where members meet to learn from each other and share resources. This hopefully is the beginning of Xavier’s long held vision for a University for Yeomen.

JUNE continued very hot and dry with temperatures reaching 41C. Strong winds made the situation worse with dust blowing everywhere and our trees having to be given extra support. All of ours survived but unfortunately fully grown trees in adjacent areas were uprooted.

At this time Typhoid Fever was rife in the area and Arokiam, the elderly retired village officer who has helped us on the land from the beginning, became ill and decided the time had come to retire. We will all miss him as his local knowledge and support have been invaluable to us, and especially to Xavier. Xavier also became ill but worked on as he had to continue taking care of the animals. Fortunately he eventually went to stay with friends who lived 4kms. away and they looked after him. Poor Xavier was also bitten twice by a scorpion but treated himself with both herbal and homeopathic preparations.

Various of the fruit trees are cropping. Aubergines and okra are producing continuously. The farm workers have been self sufficient in vegetables for six months now. More ploughing and dunging was done and an area prepared for the raising of rice seedlings before they are transplanted to the main field Lakshmi is now in calf again. Once she has calved, she and her baby will be sold as she is now 8 and is producing less milk. This is an economic decision as much of her feed now has to be bought in.

Xavier is now welcoming up to 10 people daily including from other NGOs in the district. Xavier and a group of farmers are planning to visit Auroville in July. This large community to the north of Cuddalore is now known worldwide for the work it is doing in the fields of tree planting, organic agriculture and the use of renewable energies such as solar power.

In JULY the temperatures dropped to a more comfortable level and the farm work continued. The calf was sold and some of the poultry which had been reproducing at an incredible rate were also to be sold to bring the number down to a more manageable level.

The best time to construct the percolation pond which will catch the monsoon water would be the hottest months of May, June and July. Although there is the possibility of some government aid for water saving projects, Xavier thinks we should budget for £3000 and that this should be our priority for next year. If you would like to make a donation towards this crucial project, we would be extremely grateful.

In AUGUST and SEPTEMBER Xavier and his trusty motor bike braved the pot-holed and dusty roads to have meetings with Government officers to discuss the various offers being made to farmers. In September the 200 thornless bamboo saplings were delivered and they will be planted as soon as the soil is sufficiently moist from the rains.

500 teak saplings being offered at no cost by the Forestry Department have been applied for. Teak grows well on dry land, is a good shade plant, encourages bio-diversity, sequesters carbon until it is harvested and will bring in some income.

A visit from a Government engineer has been promised. The purpose of this is to investigate the proposed site for the percolation pond and there is also the possibility of a grant towards more vermi-compost equipment.

Also in September Xavier was invited by visiting agricultural officers to attend a 4-day visit to observe agricultural work in the south of Tamil Nadu. Only some of it was devoted to ‘natural’ i.e. sustainable farming but hopefully some useful contacts were made.

This season’s crop of onions were harvested quickly before the rains could spoil them and chili plants put in their place. Towards the end of the month, more ploughing and manuring was done in some areas to prepare for the planting of approximately one acre of rice and another of cotton.

Lakshmi and new calf were sold to a farmer who has enough land to grow plenty of fodder for them and another cow and her female calf (yet to be named – suggestions please!) has been bought.

We told you earlier about Xavier treating himself for scorpion bites. He made a powder from the crushed leaves of a particular tree known to him although he cannot tell us the Latin or English names. The powder was for internal use and he also made a paste to apply to the bites. So far 16 people have benefitted from this. Normally severe pain lasts for anything up to twelve hours. With Xavier’s treatment the pain lessens within minutes and has usually completely gone within four hours – an incredible improvement.

Apologies, but no photos this time. Hopefully plenty will be sent to us by Janet Bedford during her visit. She leaves in the middle of November together with a supporter, Justin Grew, who will be doing a research project on the wild and traditional plants which grow in the area and their uses. To this end, Xavier has been asked to fence off an area of undisturbed land so that native plants may grow on naturally and Justin will then have his first study area to work on.

Janet, Xavier and Justin had applied to attend a conference in Bangalore the day after Janet and Justin arrive. Its theme is Folk and Traditional Healing and they all have been accepted.

Several people who came to our wonderful concert on Easter Monday put their names on the list to receive a DVD of the event. These are now available at a cost of £10.00 plus post and packing. It’s actually two DVDs as the concert was quite long and the producers thought it wrong to edit out some of the music. So, more for your money! If there are any more of you who were not able to attend but would welcome an opportunity to see and hear this beautiful celebration of song, an order form is enclosed.

Our website, www.chati.org.uk. is currently being revamped and should be completed by Christmas. We know that many of you have Email. Should you be happy to receive future newsletters by this method, we would be grateful if you could let us know by going to the ‘contact us’ section on the website. It’s a cheaper way for us to keep you up to date. We will then put you on the list for automatic Emailing. Obviously newsletters will also be posted on the website in the usual way. Janet will also (technology permitting…) be Twittering and Blogging on to our site while she is away which will mean we in the UK will be up to date with the latest developments more quickly than ever before.

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