We've all heard the phrase "slow and steady wins the race," but we now have a new one for you: Slow and steady feeds an entire village — and then some!
A 69-year-old man affectionately known as "mbah," or "grandpa," around his community in Central Java, Indonesia, has dedicated the past 24 years of his life to preparing for the future of his neighbors. After raging fires were kindled throughout the land to clear it for planting, many of their nearby water sources dried up in the process. So "mbah" Sadiman decided to do something about it!
The ranger hat- and safari shirt-wearing Sadiman gives off a gentle, unassuming air. But the people in his village know that inside this 69-year-old is the heart of a relentless eco-warrior.
He predicted decades in advance the dire need his community would someday have for fresh water and ripe harvests, so he got to work planting new trees across the region. Unsurprisingly, not everyone caught his same vision.
"People ridiculed me for bringing banyan tree seeds to the village, because they felt uneasy as they believed there are spirits in these trees," Sadiman told Reuters.
Yet despite the backlash and criticism, Sadiman pushed forward, reminding himself of all that was at stake if he were to give up.
"In my experience, banyan trees and ficus trees can store a lot of water," he explained. "I thought to myself, if I don't plant banyan trees, this area would become dry."
And that's exactly what he did! Over the past two decades, Sadiman has planted a whopping minimum of 11,000 banyan and other ficus trees across upwards of 617 acres.
The banyan tree is known for its strong, deep roots and its ability to retain an incredible amount of groundwater. In other words, Sadiman has made it possible for the farmers in his community to harvest crops not just once, but two or even three times a year. The barren land has also been replaced with springs that pipe water to their homes.
"In the past people thought he was crazy, trading his goats for banyan seeds, and he was seen as a 'madman' by the local community," said Gendol Hill, a local in the region. "But look at the result now. He is able to provide clean water to meet the needs of the people living in several villages."
We feel pretty certain that those same people have since exchanged their jeers for declarations of immense gratitude over what Sadiman has done for them.
"I hope the people here can have prosperous lives and live happily," Sadiman said, "and don't burn the forest over and over again."
What a poignant reminder for all of us that even when others don't see our vision through the same lens, it's never a good enough reason to give up on something we believe in.
Just like Noah taught us with his ark and Walt Disney demonstrated with his mouse, it's often the strangest ideas that end up being the best of all.
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