The world is running out of forests. Ever growing world population and their increasing demands are eating away the green belt. May it is the need of land to live or to set up an industry or to fulfil daily needs of food, fuel and consumables, trees are the only thing being sacrificed at the highest rate to cater to the needs of human beings. 

When we got busy between growing our reach to every corner of the world as a civilisation, spreading industrialisation and urbanisation lead to a mass slaughter of the world’s forest. As a result, our hands are stained with the crime of natural murder and sins are being punished with the depleting natural resources, global warming and climate change.

We, humans, are yet not able to understand the need of planting more and more trees around the globe as it is the only way to save our planet before we run out of the air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and a planet to survive. However, in spite of global ignorance, some people have taken the liberty to compensate for the crimes of the human race by recreating forests with never before seen innovation and years of dedication. Listed below are three stories of three men, who made their life, a mission to foster the idea of a green globe. We hope that you can take some inspiration from the same and bring a change.

Story 1: A Man who grew trees with 1 litre of water per tree.

No, you would also not believe it, when you will be told that a tree can be grown with just 1 litre of water. But to our surprise, this man from Rajasthan has already been growing tree for almost 24 years, in his village with just 1 litre of water. He has not only grown 1 or 2 or 100 but 50,000 trees using a technique which helps grow trees with just 1 litre of water.

Sundaram Verma, a Farmer from Danta Tehsil of Sikar District, Rajasthan has evolved a technique of growing trees with the least water possible. It’s called “Dryland Agroforestry.

Following are the steps that Verma uses to grow trees with just a litre of water:

1. Levelling of the farmland to prevent rainwater from draining away in monsoon. This needs to be done before the monsoon arrives.

2. After the 1st rain, wait for 5-6 days and then plough the fields up to one foot deep to remove the weeds and capillaries. This will enable rainwater to seep into the ground instead of evaporating away from the surface.

3. After therians are over, plough deeper for the 2nd time to turn the upper soil to a minimum of 10 inches deep in the field. This will lock the water in the soil capillaries.

4. A 3rd ploughing shall follow after the 2nd one to dig one foot deep pits which are 4-5 inches wide.

5. Plant small saplings in those small pits. It needs to ensure that the roots of the saplings are at least 20 cm below the ground. After, properly planting the sapling, cover them with wet mud to stop from getting into the contact of air & keep the moisture for long.

6. After all the procedures, daily pour 1 litre of water for the plant and see it growing.

Special Tip: Tip: Sundaram Verma strongly recommends weeding the field once every three months as weed’s roots hold the moisture in the soil. This prevents the groundwater of the soil from evaporating away.

The technique was discovered by Sundaram in 1985, while he used to plant a small sapling on his farms. He evolved this method when he used to do farming. He had planted some trees which would go dry soon. However, once he levelled the ground in monsoon and then plant saplings. After a while, he forgot to water the plants due to getting busy in harvesting crops. He noticed that even after weeks the trees were flourishing. Slowly, he learned that the plants could not survive because the surface water evaporated and plants needed groundwater from capillaries. He soon learned about how levelling the ground can save water from getting evaporated from the soil. 

He also went to Indian Agriculture Research Institute in New Delhi through a program run by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK). He studied dryland farming which helped him a lot in understanding the soil layering and how rainwater can be locked in the ground using levelling and re-shuffling of soil. He evolved the optimised technique of growing plants with merely 1 litre of water over a period of 10 years. 

Sundaram Verma himself planted 600 saplings of pomegranate trees, 10 years ago in around 1 hectare of land. He has only used the technique of Dryland Agroforestry to nurture the plants and today he has fully grown pomegranate trees which only needs 1 litre of water spraying every day. He has planted fruit trees, fodder plants and forest trees including Eucalyptus, which uses a lot of water, using this one-litre-water technique.

Sundaram has received multiple awards at national and international level. He was awarded as “Innovative Farmer” at an International Conference on “Social Perspectives in Agricultural Research and Development (2006)”. Further, he won an International Award for “Agro Biodiversity” at “International Development Research Center (IDRC)” in Canada (2007), National innovation Foundation-India Award for Scouting (2005 and 2015). Besides, he has been invited to speak about his technique at various international platforms. 

Story 2: One Man, 11 Years, 40,000 Trees

This man has planted more than 40,000 trees in just a period of 11 years. He takes care of the trees as if they are his own children.

After he lost his wife and three children to an incurable disease in 2007, Bhaiyyaram had no reason left to live. He took a vow that whatever he does, he will do it for others and serve the society till his last breath. 

The man decided to start a plantation drive in Bharatpur, a small village in Karbi block of Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh. He had been taught by his father about how to plant a tree who also took a promise from him that he should plant at least 5 trees before dying. To fulfil his father’s wish, Bhaiyyaram started the plantation.

He approached the forest department to give him a piece of their land which was barren and had been abandoned after many unsuccessful plantation drives. The land was arid, had rainfall scarcity and was drought-affected for a decade or so.  All he got from the forest department was permission and round 40 saplings to plant. Due to unavailability of water, he had to fetch water from a distant village in 2 containers of 20 litres each on his shoulders. The water needed to be fetched in 4 trips every day. 

Bhaiyyaram has been able to build a forest worth of 40,000 trees since he started with the barren land. He has made up a hut inside the very forest and lives in there only, away from all the worldly desires and even villagers. He grows vegetables and crops at a small land nearby which fulfils his needs of survival, with no other income source by side.

Watch what Bhiyyaram has to say about his forest:

The trees are not yet mature enough to yield a good quantity of fruits to yield him some money which he could invest in further welfare of his forest and to expand it. Some fruits which pop up on the trees are eaten up by the birds as Imli (Tamarind), Anar (Pomegranate), Mahua, Aura, Sagwan, Neem, Bel, are a good attraction for birds.

Also, he has requested several local authorities to dug a bore-well in the area for the better nourishment of the trees, however, in spite of several promises from some authorities, no action has been taken yet. 

His dream is to expand his count from 40,000 trees to 40 lakh trees but no official support is there to help him. However, there are still people who come to cut trees down to steal timber. Hence, he has to stay alert at all times. He is willing to take care of the trees till his last breath, but what would happen after him? The usual that happens with every other tree?

Story 3: This Man and his family created a 21-acre food forest over a period of 23 years.

This guy from Davangere, Karnataka, has created a forest which is spread across 21 acres of land consisting of trees of a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices.

Raghav belonged to a family of farmers who had been involved in farming since ages. His family had been doing agricultural activities for 7 generations. However, he had no knowledge about farming, in 1996, when his grandfather gave him his 1st coconut tree. He always thought that farming was really easy and needed very fewer efforts at physical as well mental level. 

However, his thoughts took a surprising turn when he got an opportunity to get involved in his own family’s business. Being brought up in a family of farmers, his upbringings motivated him to complete his MBA and become an agricultural entrepreneur. 

Raghav’s first step in farming involved on-farm visits, workshops on farming techniques, reading books of professionals and farming experts. He often came across various farmers who knew much more about sustainable farming even after staying in remote villages.

Interacting with them helped Raghav to understand that farming techniques are a matter of learning, as vast as any other science and learning new and innovative farming techniques are a matte of regular learning. As a result, he decided to drop his idea of entrepreneurship and adopt a lifestyle that is driven with satisfaction and enthusiasm.

Masanobu Fukuoka’s principles of Natural Farming inspired Raghava to transform the ancestral mono-culture of coconut farming into a food forest without using any artificial fertilisers, pesticides and even cultivation or weeding.

With 23 years of dedication, learning and a lot of innovative farming, Raghav has been able to transform a 21-acre land into a forest, which is decorated with a variety of trees including fruits, vegetables, tubers, spices, ornamental, medicinal and aromatic plants. A range of birds species, animals, insects, and microorganisms also form part of this small forest family. The forest created by Raghav and his family is called ‘Aikanthika’. They wish to foster an idea of Natural Farming along with natural living. 

The family has now started a space for people to foster Conscious Experiential Co-learning and Co-evolving Space for Natural Farming & Living. People from around the world are coming to join them in this program. People are taught to adopt natural farming, learning & living which involves healing activities (alternative lifestyle and health systems), eating natural foods (organic, indigenous), building houses (mud, bamboo, stone, wood, treehouse) and clothing (spinning, natural dyeing, stitching, knitting).

Apart from these eco-friendly toilets, saving indigenous seeds, fish farming, cattle rearing etc are also some of the activities which are taught, learned and adopted in ‘Aikanthika’.

Looking at the stories of these amazing people, it seems that recreating forests may take up to years of hard work and dedication but it is not definitely impossible. Share these inspirational stories with everyone around. Let us all take a step further to foster this idea.