Jadav “Molai” Payeng, the man who spent 30 years planting a 1,360 acre forest in India, is at it again. Now that the forest is complete, the Indian farmer plans to spend the next 30 years planting another giant woodland by hand. Continuing his personal fight against deforestation, Payeng’s second 1,300 acre forest will transform another barren landscape in the region.
The first forest that Payeng planted began in 1979 when he was a teenager, on a barren sandbar in Jorhat. Told nothing could grow there, he set to work, first growing bamboo and then proper trees, from seed to sapling. Payeng watered and pruned the trees daily, bringing in red ants to rework the previously unusable soil. Over time, his efforts transformed into a lush nature reserve, which attracted other plants and animals, who now inhabit his forest. His efforts completely changed the area from dry and uninhabitable to a thriving ecosystem that birds, deer, rhinos, tigers, elephants and cows now call home.
Payeng and his family live on—and off—the forested land he created. His wife and three children help to raise dairy cattle on the land, making a meager living by selling their fresh milk in the nearby town.
But one successful forest isn’t enough for the farmer, who sees the effects of deforestation throughout the Indian countryside each day. Distraught by seeing land left barren and unusable, he has pledged to continue his work, and begin planting another forest, the same size as his first. Payeng says that the second forest may take another 30 years, but no longer a teenager, he has his family on his side to help improve the world, one tree at a time.