Jadav “Molai” Payeng is a farmer living in northern India who, as a 16-year-old in 1979, began planting vegetation in a dried-out sandbar near his home after seeing many dead and dying reptiles there. More than 30 years of single-minded effort later, that sandbar has been transformed into a 1,360-acre forest that’s home to a variety of animals, including rhinos, tigers and elephants. Now he’s set his sights on another 1,300-acre sandbar, and this too he plans to forest by himself. “It may take another 30 years but I am optimistic about it,” he says.
What’s the Big Idea?
Payeng’s home is in Assam, an area that’s suffered from severe habitat and wildlife loss in recent years. He and his wife and children live in the forest he’s planted, rearing cows and selling their milk. Of his foresting work, he says, “I feel sad when I see people felling trees. We have to save the nature or else we all will perish…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.”