Once considered crazy by fellow residents, Indonesian eco-warrior Sadiman has turned infertile slopes green following 24 years of hardwork and dedication, making water assets accessible in the drought-prone inclined rocky locale where he resides.
Affectionately tended to as 'mbah' or 'grandpa', the 69-year-old has worked steadily to plant trees in the slopes of focal Java after fires to clear the land for development almost evaporated its streams and lakes.
“I thought to myself, if I don’t plant banyan trees, this area would become dry,” said Sadiman in his interview with Reuters, wearing his trademark ranger hat and safari shirt, who goes by one name, like many Indonesians.
“In my experience, banyan trees and ficus trees can store a lot of water.”
The long and wide-spreading underlying roots of at least 11,000 banyans and ficus trees Sadiman has planted more than 250 hectares (617 acres) help to hold groundwater and prevent land disintegration.
Thanks to his effort, springs have formed where once there was barren and arid land, their water piped to homes and used to irrigate farms.
Yet, at the beginning, few village residents appreciated his work.
“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 added.
Some even believed he was insane because he bartered saplings for the goats he reared, said one villager, Warto.
“In the past people thought he was crazy, but look at the result now,” Warto added. “He is able to provide clean water to meet the needs of the people in several villages.”
Sadiman likewise finances his work through a nursery of plants, such as cloves and jackfruit that he can sell or trade.
“I hope the people here can have prosperous lives and live happily. And don’t burn the forest over and over again,” Sadiman added
Lack of downpour in the area where he planted trees had once restricted farmers to a solitary reap a year, yet now, the bountiful water sources guarantee a few, he said.