In the summer of 2013, we got the opportunity to add two more acres to our land holding. The land was not adjoining Aanandaa - in fact it was about 400 m down the road, much closer to the village Bunga. We liked the land, because even though it didn't have any tube well on it, it had a kaimi or water channel on either side. Also it had a clean title, which is a big thing in agricultural land.
The land itself was pebbly, looked like an ancient river bed, and completely barren. By now we had learnt that over grazing is the main cause of desertification, and this patch was a popular grazing area for the Gujjar community of Bunga. Almost everyone brought their cows, buffalos and goats to graze on this piece of land.
As a first step we fenced the area. We knew that as soon as we keep the grazing animals out, the land would regenerate itself.
The next step was to decide the plantation plan. The ethical task was to ensure a boundary of windbreak, create an eco system of diversity, yet leave enough space in the clearings to grow cereals and grains. Also we needed a path that can walk through the entire land, and have access to all the fields.
The land was more or less flat, but had a small pond/pool on the south side, which was mostly fed by the dammed up water channel on the east side. This had to be retained, if possible, enlarged, and appropriately surrounded by water loving trees and plants.
We decided to design the farm based on Mandalas - the circles of life. Thereby, the farm got its name as Mandala too. Instead of roping in any landscape architect, we simply measured by the land, started by created 4 rows of windbreak on the north side, and two rows on the south side. Made a central path which curved along the way, to block out the view of the onlookers, and measured out 6 circlar fields in the rest of the property, each one having an entrance for access. The simple sketches and measurements done below, became the drawings for the plantation.
In this simple design, we decided to plant native forest trees on the periphery and along the water channel, with a row of fruit trees in the middle circle and flowering shrubs in the inner most circle. Windbreak, diversity, native trees for birds, food forest and flowers for bees - all taken care of in the design.