|Jadav Payeng in his forest|
In 1979, Jadav Payeng, a.k.a. Mulai, a cowherd, started planting trees on a desolate, barren island formed by the ever-shifting sands of the Brahmaputra river, near his island home of Aruna sapori in the Jorhat district of Assam.
Payeng of the Mising tribe of Northeast India, previously known as the Miris, the second largest ethnic group in Assam after the Bodos, was hired as a labourer for an afforestation project undertaken on 200 ha. of land on Aruna sapori by the Social Forestry Division of Golaghat district in 1979. The five-year project was abandoned in three years and while the rest of the workers packed up and disappeared into government files, Payeng, who had nowhere else to go, continued to plant more trees, while nurturing the existing vegetation, on his own.
For almost 30 years, off everyone’s radar, without support or subsidies, without fear or favour, without Forest Department or foreign hand, Payeng, almost obsessively, continued to expand the forest and the fruit of his labour is now being celebrated around the world.
Read the whole story online Sanctuary Asia