Meet the Man Who Spent 30 Years of His Life Planting Trees

Jadav Payeng plans to devote the rest of his life to turning a sandbar into another lush forest.

jadav peyang plants new forest in india

Jadav Payeng walks through the forest in Indian that he single-handedly planted over the course of 30 years. (Photo: iseindia.com)

Sal holds a Political Science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

The Michael Jordan of tree planting is back at it.

Over the past 30 years, Jadav Payeng has single-handedly planted a 1,360-acre forest in his native India. Now, after some much-deserved R&R, Payeng is pledging to devote the rest of his life to planting another forest all by himself.

“My efforts haven’t gone in vain,” he said. “I may live a very lowly life, but I feel satisfied that I have been able to stir up a lot of people who love nature.”

“It may take another 30 years, but I am optimistic about it,” said Payeng, in an interview with DNA India. “I feel sad when I see people felling trees. We have to save the nature or else we all will perish.”

Payeng’s one-man tree mission began when he was just 16 years old.

In 1978 Payeng found some snakes washed ashore on a sandbar because of flooding. The snakes eventually died because they had no tree cover. “I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms,” said Payeng last year, to the Times of India.

When he asked the forest department for help with planting trees, they told him nothing would grow on the sandbar. He decided to prove them wrong. And has he ever.

Today the lush forest that bears Payeng’s fingerprints is a sanctuary for “a variety of birds, deer, rhinos, tigers and elephants, species hit hard by rampant habitat loss throughout the region,” reports Treehugger.

Now—we know what you’re thinking: How does a family man provide for children if his singular obsession is seeding an entire hinterland?

Turns out forest planting is a sustainable business. Payeng makes a living in the forest he reared, raising cows and selling milk in town.

“My efforts haven’t gone in vain,” he said. “I may live a very lowly life, but I feel satisfied that I have been able to stir up a lot of people who love nature.”

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