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How A Man Built A Forest In 40 Years

Most people who long to change the world feel like the task is too overwhelming to take on all at once, so they never try. One teen set out that with enough patience and persistence, you can do anything. He's been planting trees for 40 years, and has created an entire forest.

Meet Jadav Payeng

Jadav Payeng was just 16 years old back in 1979, and he realized his tiny island home of Majuli in India, as well as all of its wildlife, were in danger. Majuli was once the largest river island in the world, but over a 70 year period the island shrank by half due to soil erosion. He began working to save it.


Dead Snakes

The issue first came to Payeng's attention when he found dead snakes on the sand. Flood waters had washed them up onto the sandbar, where they perished from the heat. Payeng learned then about the fate of Majuli.


Devastating Changes

Payeng learned that embankments built up the river redirected the powerful waters to his island. These river currents are threatening to destroy the island, which could be completely washed away in as little as 20 years. process.


Planting Trees

He also learned that trees could help slow down the erosion, so for Payeng it was simple. The island needed trees. That became his life's work.


A Monumental Task

Payeng's island home had become a barren wasteland. The forestry division of the Golaghat district came up with the idea of planting almost 500 acres of trees to help slow down the erosion, and Payeng was one of the first people to join the efforts.


Discouraging Beginnings

Most of the laborers became discouraged and left the project. It wasn't going well, but Payeng stuck with it. The initial project came to an end after the first five years, but Payeng decided to continue with these efforts alone.



It became easier for Payeng to get seeds and cuttings because he now had more trees to work with. He continued planting trees for another 35 years, and a forest has now grown. It's 1,300 acres, almost twice the size of Central Park.


Nature Replenishes

Thanks to Payeng's forest, animals have returned to help create a thriving ecosystem. Vultures, rabbits, deer, tiger and elephants all came to the beautiful forest that Payeng planted with his own tow hands.



A nature photographer from India stumbled upon Payeng’s forest, and at first Payeng was very suspicious. He thought the man was a poacher, or seeking to exploit the resources in the growing forest. As it turned out, the photographer helped Payeng by bringing attention to his efforts. This recognition has enabled him to make even more progress.


The Forest Man

Payeng is known as the ‘Forest Man’ of India now, and the government is behind his efforts. No one knows if the island can be ultimately saved, but Payeng has given it a chance.

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