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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spicy breezes o'er Ceylon's Isle
Where every prospect pleases .(and only man is vile)... to quote from a missionary poem on Sri Lanka. Since reading this book, I have made Rory Spower's Samakanda website my home page - but for how long I wonder as it is at least one year out of date though it still has some nice pictures with a peaceful feel. This is an account of setting up an organic forest garden...
Published on 8 Sep 2007 by Sarakani

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Planes and cars, not tuk-tuks
I bought this book because when I flipped through it in the bookshop, I found a mention of Kerala's forest gardens and the huge positive impact they have on life in an economically `underdeveloped' area of India.

It's the story of a British journalist who transports his young family to Sri Lanka in the hope of building a sustainable life away from the chaos he...
Published on 26 Oct 2010 by Emma Cooper


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spicy breezes o'er Ceylon's Isle, 8 Sep 2007
By 
Sarakani (Harrow United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka (Paperback)
Where every prospect pleases .(and only man is vile)... to quote from a missionary poem on Sri Lanka. Since reading this book, I have made Rory Spower's Samakanda website my home page - but for how long I wonder as it is at least one year out of date though it still has some nice pictures with a peaceful feel. This is an account of setting up an organic forest garden estate on the island of Sri Lanka covering the period of one year. Based on the website - I have doubts that the initial flowering indicated in the book is yielding Spowers the income he deserves or expected ... he will need to build on a career as a writer and communicator and not as the agriculturalist he is seeking to become. The obvious flaw in the book is that it only represents a one year account and is thus still not backed up by core knowledge and experience on settling down in Sri Lanka (and the evidence for this in a period of greater than one year is yet to come). Spowers does not actually express what he thinks about the locals or even Sri Lanka as a place, though he provides some useful portraits with sensitivity. This cardinal volume is thus very sketchy and leaves room for a sequel.

Feeling a bit sick of the UK, particularly as an environment for raising children, Spowers decamps his whole family to Sri Lanka which has to be one of the bravest decisions possible given that the island has a terrorist problem, foreigners are not welcome with open arms unless they are tourists and finally, that Sri Lanka is not usually "on the map" and when it is - it's usually for the wrong reasons. Spowers has the reminiscences of his father and a colonial context to build on in his adventure and just when they have settled into Sri Lanka and think things could not be better, the tsunami strikes.

Spowers has a steep learning curve in dealing with the Sri Lankans in getting their trust and co-operatiion without getting fleeced or emotionally scarred. Armed with a modest fortune he purchases 60acres of prime old time estate land in the south of the island and endeavours to create a sort of eden out of it based on organic, eco friendly ideals, and getting the environmental message out there with the locals. This has to be a magnificient aim.

They realise just how poor most locals are and desperate for funds, and how to get the best of the workers. The people Spowers hires are not up to scratch, and eventually he finds a Tamil manager who brings order to the chaos of his estate as certain workers threaten to build on his land and create divisions between the estate and the local village.

There is a fair bit on the hardship, challenges and support he receives in setting up (what a friend of mine has described as) the eden project in Sri Lanka. Spowers apppears to have only inspiration for backing - his travels and the setting up of the Web of Hope which deals with environmental concerns. Spowers realises that action is harder than words and needs to compromise environmentally for his families' good (so he can't abandon flying or driving using petrol). There is so much appreciation of Indian/Sri Lankan culture though not necessarily the sort of respect/knowledge for/of it that would really establish a bond. Spowers in not going native and takes the best elements from Sri Lanka such as ayuruvedic medicines when his children can't be treated any other way, as well as contributing his own culture in the context of outdoor pizza ovens and organic gardening including green tea.

Not many birds or animals are mentioned though habitat in his estate is covered and how he creates a space good for commercial agriculture as well as biodiversity and elements of tourism. His is primarily an educational enterprise which would suffer from funding and publicity constraints. Spowers is doubtless working on these areas.

Spower's by the act of coming to Sri Lanka and flying a green banner has done a tremendous service to the "politic" of the Island, encouraging a new way of looking at the earth based on harmony with nature.

Somewhat disappointingly, the books comes to a rapid close - at least the section dealing with his challenge of setting up "Samakanda" - Peaceful Hill in Sri Lanka - his bioversity estate. There follows after this a series of essays dealing with the most important environmental issues with some relevance or mention of the UK and Sri Lanka (as an aside). I think the essays could have instead been intergrated in the main text or covered elsewhere as the Sri Lankan half is the cream of this book. Sri Lanka needs models of utopia now, more than ever before given its illustrious past glories which have now largely crumbled and with Spowers - there is a taste of a utopia to come.

It is actually a very easy, almost throwaway book and nothing to compare with Spower's earlier, perhaps less commercial, more profound contributions to Green issues such as through the magazine Resurgence. I hope his venture succeeds and there will be a sequel. The work is enjoyable to read highlighting Sri Lanka and the environment, and thus enormously stimulating - but how much staying power Samakanda and the web of hope has remains to be seen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Planes and cars, not tuk-tuks, 26 Oct 2010
By 
Emma Cooper (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka (Paperback)
I bought this book because when I flipped through it in the bookshop, I found a mention of Kerala's forest gardens and the huge positive impact they have on life in an economically `underdeveloped' area of India.

It's the story of a British journalist who transports his young family to Sri Lanka in the hope of building a sustainable life away from the chaos he believes industrialized nations will suffer when climate change and peak oil take hold.

The book is divided into three sections. The first part is about Rory's quest to find the perfect place to live. It follows him and his family as they live in Wales and fly around the world trying to settle on their new home. At the same time Rory is trying to get a new environmental charity (The Web of Hope) up and running. Rory's main desire to leave the UK seems to stem from his belief that life here is over-regulated and people can't live the way they want to. That, and the weather.

The second part of the book is about their new life in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately for them, the family arrived in Sri Lanka shortly before the tsunami hit - and so life there didn't turn out quite as they expected. They did a lot of relief work whilst simultaneously trying to renovate a house and get their organic eco-village off the ground.

And the final section is a section of notes on sustainable living - health, transport, food, that kind of thing.

I was very disappointed by the book. For one thing, a lot of it isn't about life in Sri Lanka and you have to read through a lot of Rory's life before he gets there. The prologue talks about the tsunami - so the book starts mired in chaos and destruction. And the organic farm that becomes an eco-village is not the star of the book (Rory is) and so we learn precious little about it, or forest gardens in general. The mention of forest gardens in Kerala that I spotted is at the end of the book, and it's just about the only one.

And for a man who dislikes over-regulation, Rory has a lot to say about the trials of life in Sri Lanka. There's the chaotic traffic system and resulting pollution that means he has to buy an air-conditioned car to keep his kids safe. There's the legal system that doesn't protect victims and is slow and overly bureaucratic. And there's the food distribution system that means frozen chickens are allowed to defrost in the sun, prawns are harvested from polluted waters and it's impossible to buy organic vegetables or be sure that your food is safe.

For anyone trying to reduce their carbon footprint, Rory's globetrotting will be a constant annoyance throughout the book. The inconsistencies between his environmental stance and his real-world actions are normal - we could all do better - but his hopeful musings that a lifetime of tree-planting has offset his flights is just wishful thinking.

The upshot of all this is that if you like travel books, and stories of the trials and tribulations of starting life in another country, then you may enjoy this one. If you're looking for an inspiring yarn about organic farms, forest gardens and eco-villages, then look elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What he said, 23 Oct 2010
By 
N. Batcheler (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka (Paperback)
I was just about to write a short review as I near the end of this terrible book, then read the review by O. F. Jones and realise that I couldn't possibly put it better myself. Self righteous tosh from start to finish, with glowing reviews from a few mates.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Part Travel, Part Enviromental Book, 18 Sep 2012
This review is from: A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka (Paperback)
What Spowers has written is very good, but it seems to sit with one leg in two camps. The first section of the book is the route that he took to end up with a large tea estate in Sri Lanka via Wales and other parts of the globe, and the struggles of the new culture and life in this larger than life country.

His narrative starts just after the Tsunami in 2004, and he describes in detail the challenges of owning a large parcel of land that had been neglected for a decade or so. Some of the people he befriends let him down, and lots of people are trying to take advantage, but he adages to find some one who can manages the incessant and conflicting demands from the residents and local populations.

The second section of the books is from the perspective of a strongly motivated environmental campaigner, and the philosophies and ideals that he aims to live by. All very interesting, but I would have rather had more on living in Sri Lanka.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 1 Mar 2011
By 
T. Webb "Tree" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka (Paperback)
I bought this book as a birthday present for my brother who was going to be travelling to Sri Lanka. Having flicked open the first couple of pages and started reading, I wanted to finish it! So my brother had to wait!! Very good book, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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