A 65-year-old Indonesian man from Wonogiri regency has single-handedly turned his drought-prone village into a water-rich region by replanting trees for the past 19 years.
Since 1996, Pak Sadiman, a local farmer and father of two, encouraged local residents to plant more trees on Gendol Hill, which is located on the border area of Central and East Java provinces. Due to extensive logging activities from 1960s to the 1980s, the hill was severely deforested and this posed a great threat to the village’s water source (which came from the Gendol River). The extreme deforestation made the Gendol River dry up, leaving local residents with little access to water.
In an effort to save his village from a prolonged drought, Sadiman used his own money to buy tree seedlings and single-handedly planted them on the hill. “I found out that many rubber trees no longer produced rubber latex. Then I realized that the water crisis was too extreme. Even the tree trunks had dried up,” he said. “Unlike rubber trees that absorb groundwater, banyan trees can retain groundwater. The more banyan trees planted means, the more villagers will get clean water.”
Though Sadiman was planting trees alone, he knew that he needed the support of his neighbours to help keep the campaign alive. However, they were not too fond of his efforts and thought that he was wasting time. But this did not deter Sadiman, “I just wanted to see the village with reliable water sources again,” he said.
After 19 years, Sadiman said that he could not remember how many trees he had planted. However, data from Geneng subdistrict office reported that at least 11,000 trees, including 4,000 banyan trees had been planted across 10 hectares of land. While there are 30 subdistricts in Wongori suffering from a water crisis, Geneng has become one of the few subdistricts that seems to be unaffected by the dry season.
Sadiman’s determination to save his village has been a huge success and now more residents are supporting him, some have joined him to plant on the hills, while others provide free seedlings to help with costs. Sadiman says that he needs to grow at least 200,000 more trees to further alleviate the water deficit. “I won’t stop planting trees as long as I’m still physically fit to do that,” he said.