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Image: Nick Pritchard
Image: Nick Pritchard

A Forest Begins with a Seed

Jomiro Eming

A young Indian man, Jadav Payeng, saw his island in crisis and threatened by erosion. The land was arid and becoming nothing more than a desert, and so he planted a single seed. Now, nearly four decades later, his once-dying island is a 1 360-acre forest, and a lush new ecosystem. It is known as the Molai woods, and Payeng planted the entire forest by himself.

Payeng’s region was a sandbar, and after severe flooding in 1979 he became aware of how dry and desolate the area really was. With no way for the soil to be held in place, the erosion that the sandbar suffered was significant, and Payeng wanted to save whatever ecosystems still existed there.

It took 40 years for him to get there, but Payeng started by planting rows of seeds along the sandbar, and nurturing the saplings that sprouted. After a decade, the plant-life he had sprouted was able to maintain itself to some degree, and so he extended the borders of his young forest. Soon, animals made their homes in his forest, and so began a new, lush biodiverse ecosystem.

The documentary that National Geographic made can be watched online here.

However, what Payeng did is a heroic feat that not many can achieve. That said, it is not difficult for any individual to begin planting a forest, and all it takes is a single seed. In fact, for Grahamstown residents, it is even easier.

September is the month for Hogsback’s annual Festival of the Trees, where hundreds gather at the foot of the Amathole Mountains to celebrate the forests, and plant new saplings to promote sustainable living. Hosted by Terra-Khaya “Earth Home Project” and Greenpop, this weekend of tree-planting, good food, good vibes, hikes, yoga, live music, and magical forest activities is a thriving event, and attracts only positive reviews. The festival will take place from 22 to 25 September 2017, and tickets can be bought online or at the gate.

This year, festival goers can expect workshops and seminars, as well as an abundance of outdoor activities. The full-price festival ticket includes entry, camping at Terra-Khaya for three nights, three veggie meals on planting day (Saturday), trees for planting, discussion groups and market entry on Sunday, as well as access to all the parties and live music over the weekend.

More information can be found here, and Terra-Khaya also posts updates to their Facebook page.

You don’t have to dedicate four decades of your life to planting trees, but a forest begins with a seed – and yours could be the one that becomes a home for a bird, or a squirrel, or even an entirely new ecosystem.

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