Indonesian man revives once-arid land after 24 years of effort

When Indonesian eco-warrior Sadiman exchanged the goats he reared for tree saplings to reforest the barren hills surrounding his village, most people in his community doubted his decision. Now, however, they’re more than grateful to him.

After 24 years of determination, Sadiman has managed to turn those barren lands into a green, lush forest, making water resources once again available in the drought-vulnerable mountainous region that he calls home.

Affectionally addressed as ‘mbah’ or ‘grandpa’, 69-year-old Sadiman has worked relentlessly over the last 24 years to plant more than 250 hectares of trees in the hills of central Java, after deforestation nearly depleted the land of its water reservoirs.

“I thought to myself, if I don’t plant banyan trees, this area would become dry,” said Sadiman. “In my experience, banyan trees and ficus trees can store a lot of water.”

He was right. This is largely because the long and wide-spreading roots of these trees help retain groundwater and prevent land erosion. Thanks to Sadiman’s effort, springs have formed on the once-arid land, and their water is now piped to homes and used for irrigation. As a result, farmers in the area can now harvest more than twice the amount of crops they used to before Sadiman’s efforts.

This uplifting story of conservation and community demonstrates how the actions of one dedicated individual can reshape an entire region, and how relatively simple reforestation measures can bring life back to a damaged area.

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