Efforts are afoot with the support of NGOs and the Indian mission to revive Tolstoy Farm, once a thriving self-sufficient commune established by Mahatma Gandhi here in early 1900s.
“We have been able to install large busts of Gandhiji and Mandela, and most recently well-wishers and NGOs brought in scores of trees, pledged to improve security and repair the generator and borehole on the premises,” said Mohan Hira, co-founder of Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Organisation (MGRO).
Hira said he also spent money from his own pocket to restore the site, which was completely vandalized a decade ago.
At the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Sunday, visitors saw an orchard, a library building and a community center on the premises.
Speaking at the event, Consul General of India in Johannesburg Anju Ranjan said the venue should turn into a center, which benefits the local community.
“Once Tolstoy Farm is rehabilitated completely, we should connect with other Gandhian organizations in India to make a Gandhian Circuit, like we have a Ramayana Circuit and the Buddhist Circuit, which connects India and Nepal,” he said.
“Gandhjii is the connecting link between India and South Africa because he developed his Satyagraha theories while he was here. So, we should connect the places of Gandhian importance in both countries. This will lead to Tolstoy Farm becoming more relevant,” Ranjan said.
The diplomat said the ultimate objective should be to get Tolstoy Farm declared a heritage site as has been done with the Phoenix Settlement near Durban, where Gandhi had started a commune as well.
Many educational and empowerment projects for the surrounding communities are run at the Phoenix Settlement by Mahatma’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi and others.
Projecting Tolstoy Farm this way will give a boost to community development and tourism programs, Ranjan said.
Ranjan said it would an emotional moment to leave South Africa when her term ends in December because she had been intimately involved in Gandhian projects since her arrival three years ago.
“I may not be physically present here but Tolstoy Farm will always remain in my heart and I will always try to do as much as possible back home by trying to persuade the authorities and connect with the right people, who can make this project viable,” Ranjan said.