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Ovation: Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants “Molai Woods”.


I don’t have a green thumb.  I’ve always thought that plants were fascinating and I enjoy having them around.  Unfortunately, the lifespan of a plan shrinks significantly once it finds itself under my care.  Over the years, I’ve brought to life and subsequent death many interesting and curious plants.  I was oh so proud of a sunflower seed that sprouted while adhered to the inside of a highball glass by a wet paper towel until it dried up and died in a windowsill.  Having seen the beautiful tropical plant that my aunt had grown from an avocado pit, I tried to grow one of my own only to end up with a wet avocado pit with toothpicks protruding from three sides … certainly not the horticultural beauty that I had hoped for.  Since then, I’ve killed plants from African Violets to Zinnias but I haven’t given up hope.  I’ve even killed cactuses.  I’m absolutely positive that I will never grow a forest.

More than thirty years ago, long after I’d killed my first parlor-palm-in-a-box from Stuckey’s, a teenager named Jadav “Molai” Payeng began planting seeds on a sandbar near his home in India.  Floods had washed a lot of snakes onto the sandbar and they all died in the heat.  The young boy was upset by all the dead snakes and asked authorities if they could grow trees to provide shade for local wildlife.  He was told that trees wouldn’t grow there and he should try growing bamboo.  So he did.

Now, decades later, the once parched sandbar is a 1,360 acre forest that was single-handed planted and cultivated by Payeng.  Appropriately named “Molai Woods”, the forest is home to several thousand types of trees and a variety of wildlife including birds, deer, apes, rhino, elephants and even tigers.  Officials indicate that the forest is, perhaps, the world’s biggest forest in the middle of a river.  Accepting a life of isolation, Payeng has dedicated his life to the upkeep and growth of the forest and continues to live on the sandbar with his wife and three children.

I can’t keep leaves on a poinsettia at Christmas time so the concept of keeping a forest alive is completely alien to me.  But I can admire the dedication and passion that this young man has for the forest that he created.  Talk about leaving your mark on the world!

Copyright © 2012

From → Ovations

  1. wcdameron permalink

    That is incredible and inspiring. Makes me want to plant something.

    Here is a tip for you. Air ferns, you can’t kill them.


  2. Molai’s work is wonderful, but to understand how he perservers, we need to distinguish some words. ‘Forest’ implies ‘outside the door’, whereas ‘orchard’ is something we grow and eat. Here in Montreal our family has just planted 15 fruit, nut trees & bushes as well as 60 other perennial fruits and herbs all mixed. This is part of another 150 plantings in previous 15 years. There are some key ‘permaculture’ factors in Molai’s work not typically appreciated by those of us who are detached from nature or only consume it. Industry indoctrinates us that ‘forests’ are only cellulose or lumber, nice to look at but not be part of. ‘Parks’ (originally ‘paradise’) are today something we drive to and from without becoming. In order to continue in his work so long, Molai had to become his planting.

    ‘Indigenous’ (Latin = ‘self-generating’) peoples as stewards of the ‘orchard’ rejuvenate their work constantly by planting specific food and material trees, which abundantly meet livelihood needs. The typical 3-dimensional indigenous polyculture orchard is 100 times (10,000%) more productive than 2-D ‘agriculture’ (L ‘ager’ = ‘field’) in food, materials, air, water, soil, wildlife.

    Self-generating orchards are sophisticated livelihood creations which maintain all species and habitat including our own. For those interested in re-becoming indigenous,


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