A desire. Hands that have planted. And the birth of a new forest of 550 hectares. In India, Jadav Payeng planted hundreds of thousands of trees for 30 years to revive the island of Majuli, an area of sand and land that stretches along an arm of the Brahmaputra River. The story is beautiful, incongruous. It is the work of one man.
At 16, Jadav Payeng discovers thousands of bodies of inanimate snakes, dead of heat. No more trees could protect them on this island that threatened to disappear because of erosion and flooding. With no support forthcoming from the authorities, the young man plants his first bamboo. He plans to do the work alone if no one sets in.
In the fertile period between April and June, he planted the forest. He rattles off the species, like names from an intimate family tree: bamboos, baheda, teak; gambhari; custard apple, star fruit, gulmohur; devil’s tree, tamarind, mulberry; mango, jackfruit, plum, peach, banyan; elephant grass and medicinal plants… the list is varied and exhaustive.
Birth of an ecosystem
After the bamboos, he allows other trees to take root. He also brings red ants to change the nature of the soil. Little by little, a real ecosystem is being recreated. Migratory birds are reappearing and with them, a wide range of wildlife including endangered rhinoceros and Bengal tigers.
The forest that Payeng grew now houses five Royal Bengal tigers, over a hundred deer, wild boar, more than a hundred vultures, several species of birds, including pelicans, three or four greater one-horned rhinoceroses, besides of course, the snakes, who were at the genesis of this extraordinary story.
A herd of 115 elephants visits regularly for 3-4 months. “In 35 years, the Royal Bengal tigers have feasted on 85 of my cows, 95 buffaloes and 10 pigs,” Payeng says matter-of-factly, then adds jokingly, “They (the tigers) do not know farming, you see.”
This meticulous work, Jadav Payeng did it in all discretion, pure love of nature, of his native land. It was not until 2008 that the authorities got wind of this dense forest … when they noticed that a large herd of elephants had taken refuge there.
Since then, Jadav Payeng has been called ‘Forest Man’ but he is much more than that. His gesture has value, his will is pure and honest. One man can make so much difference.
Know more about Jadav Payeng and his selfless work in this short documentary by William D McMaster : HERE
Comment: Yes! Small steps often have big effects, which we often experience in our fight for the rights of animals. It’s not just the decision you make for something. You also have to stay consistent, you have to go through it. Often the strength and nerves leave us, and so good decisions remain only a wish!
My best regards, Venus