At first they called him crazy, but by replanting forest lost to fire this Indonesian man single-handedly saved his village from drought and starvation.
Unsung hero of a 21-year campaign to replant trees to conserve groundwater
Sadiman, a 67-year-old man from the Wonogiri regency of Central Java, Indonesia, has managed to turn his drought-prone village into a groundwater-rich region by leading a campaign to replant trees on a nearby hill for the past 21 years.
Region deforested due to extensive logging and forest fires from the 1960s to the 1980s
Since 1996, Sadiman, a farmer in Dali hamlet, in the Wonogiri regency of Central Java, Indonesia, has been encouraging local residents to plant more trees on nearby Gendol Hill in an attempt to curb a severe water crisis that used to regularly hit the village, especially during the dry season.
Situated on the southeastern slope of Mount Lawu, which is located in the border area of Central and East Java provinces, the hill was severely deforested because of extensive logging activities and a series of forest fires that took place from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The extreme deforestation made the Gendol River, which used to be the only source of water for the Geneng villagers, quickly dry up, putting local residents into a severe water crisis that lasted for years.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post in an interview in 2015, Sadiman said he first came up with the idea to revitalise the hill when he was tapping rubber from rubber trees on the hill to make ends meet.
Sadiman began to cultivate clove tree seedlings to barter for banyan tree seedlings
Realising that somebody had to do something about this, Sadiman started to plant trees in the devastated forest area. He has been planting trees on the 100 hectares of the forest land for the last 21 years — and he has been doing this by himself.
Sadiman’s sacrifice is simply astonishing. Being a simple farmer himself, he is already struggling to get money. However, his humble living conditions did not stop him spending his own hard-earned money to buy the seedlings that would be planted to become the forest.
A banyan tree seedling can cost him between 50,000 and 10,000 Rupiah — that’s the equivalent of £2.75-£5.50, or $3.70-$7.40, or €3.15-€6.30 — which is a lot of money for him. To overcome this challenge, Sadiman began to cultivate clove tree seedlings at his yards. Ten clove tree seedlings are worth a banyan tree seedling.
Certainly, Sadiman’s dedication is beyond question. He had been called a "crazy person" many times because of his actions. Some of his seedlings were even pulled out of the ground by irresponsible people. However, this didn’t stop him from planting the trees.
Non-stop since the early 1990s, Sadiman has kept on planting trees and taking care of them to ensure they grow strong and healthy. Thanks to his persistent hard work, the forest has started to recover, and indeed thrive.
More and more springs and streams have been revitalised to provide a reliable water supply for the villages at the foot of Mount Lawu. Those who called him "crazy" began to realise the importance of this wise old man’s work, and more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of the forest in the bigger picture.
Volunteer in Reforestation Abroad
Find reforestation volunteer programs abroad NOW with this link, or simply type "Get involved in reforestation" into your search engine to find opportunities local to your country.