Jadav hopes to save his home from washing away by planting a forest

Planting a forest to save a disappearing island

It’s 1979, a teenage Jadav Payeng digs a small hole into the earth on Mājuli Island in Northern India. It’s an action that he will repeat millions of times over the next 39 years, although he doesn’t know it yet. Right now, he just wants to save his home, one tree at a time.

That monsoon season, he’d seen hundreds of snakes and other creatures wash ashore in the flooding, all dying of exposure. His heart broke.

"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I didn’t want this to happen to all the animals and people who live on the island,” he says.

The animals were left exposed in the harsh sun because erosion had scrubbed sandbars around the island of all vegetation. The same erosion meant that every time the Brahmaputra river flooded, more and more of Mājuli Island was being washed away. It’s something that had impacted Jadav before - as a child, his village had been washed away by the river.

In fact, by the time Jadav got started on his mission, Mājuli had already lost nearly three-quarters of its land mass. He knew that if he didn’t do something to protect it, home to over 150 000 people, it could soon be a distant memory.

Leaving school, he set up camp on a desolate sand bar and got to work planting trees. His insight came from a nearby government forestation project, where he learned the correct techniques for sowing the seeds and tending the plants, and the various species that would thrive in the harsh environment of sand, silt and flooding.

He was on his own.

Although he asked the government for help and tried to engage the local villagers, no one would assist.

Initially, Jadav started small, planting around 20 bamboo saplings on a sandbar. On their own, those saplings would have made little difference. They were, however, the foundations of an investment that would one day pay massive dividends.

Rain, wind, or monsoon, Jadav travels to his forest every day to plant

Overcoming difficult conditions, day in and day out

Jadav’s fight to save his island home has represented a huge long-term commitment for one man alone with very limited resources, especially in the face of incredibly harsh conditions.

Every single day he has found a way to care for the forest: buying and planting more seeds and saplings, hauling fertiliser, introducing insects and tending to the young trees.

During summer, temperatures climb into the high 30s with humidity measured at more than 90%. Monsoon season, meanwhile, has become more threatening over the years, bringing with it more than 1000mm of rainfall in a month. This only makes the mighty Brahmaputra river flow faster, increasing erosion rates and wreaking even more havoc on the environment.

Meanwhile, Majuli’s poor soil, covered by silt and sand and lacking a healthy ecosystem, has made for exceptionally inhospitable ground.

To buy the seeds and saplings, Jadav has relied on selling milk from his family’s herd of cattle and buffalo. This has meant significant sacrifices for Jadav and his family, since these are the same resources they depend on for their daily survival.

Even in more recent years, when he had to move away from Mājuli to be closer to schools for his children, Jadav has continued planting.

He now wakes at 3am, cycles for an hour, rows a boat for five kilometres, and then cycles for 30 more minutes to reach his forest.

Jadav’s story shows that even in the face of harsh conditions and limited resources, you can reap a great reward through commitment and consistency.

Why consistency matters

A decades-long, consistent commitment like Jadav’s also lies behind Prudential Investment Managers’ success in building wealth for our clients.

We consistently apply the same tried-and-tested investment approach, no matter what the market conditions, day after day, month in and month out, to protect and grow our clients’ wealth over the long term.

Our consistent investment philosophy and process, applied by a long-standing team of experienced investment professionals every day, has led to long-term investment success.

Proof of the success of consistency?

Prudential Investment Managers has been rated the #1 investment manager in South Africa by Morningstar in both 2016 and 2017 for our top fund performance (among managers with 10 or more unit trusts). And the returns of many of our unit trusts are consistently ranked in the top 25% of their peers over the longer term.

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Why consistency matters

Rain, wind, or monsoon, Jadav travels to his forest every day to plant

Sights from Molai Forest

Jadav has been planting day in, day out, for 39 years

Protecting the forest’s bounty

As his forest has grown, Jadav’s task has become just as much about protecting it as expanding it even more. Here the challenges are different but equally daunting, since people now represent the biggest threat to the forest and its ever-growing animal population.

The yearly monsoon flooding still destroys sections of the forest: the erosion today is exacerbated by the large flood defences built in neighbouring towns upriver.

With nowhere to go, Mājuli faces the full wrath of the Brahmaputra River.

But now it’s not just the trees that are at risk, it’s the entire ecosystem. Mājuli’s lush forest has become home to Bengal tigers, elephant, rhino, deer, and a variety of endangered bird species. In turn, unfortunately, the animals have attracted the notice of poachers.

In 2013, poachers tried to kill the rhinos living in the forest but failed after Jadav alerted forest department officials to their activities. The officials managed to seize their traps and chase them away from the area.

While the Forest Man of India does everything he can to protect the animals, they do represent a threat.

Majuli’s villagers have lost valuable livestock to the tigers; in fact Jadav himself has lost around 100 cattle and buffalo over the years. Rather than blaming the tigers, however, the forest guardian blames the people who carry out large-scale encroachment on, and destruction of, the tigers’ habitat.

Jadav’s creation: a thriving 1400-acre forest filled with lush plants and animals

Jadav’s creation: a thriving 1400-acre forest filled with lush plants and animals

How the Forest Grew Exponentially Over Time

Thanks to Jadav’s efforts, the forest on Mājuli Island has grown exponentially. What was once an eroded wasteland is now a lush forest spanning over 1400 acres. This is nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park.

As the forest has matured, Jadav’s job has, in theory, become easier. The trees he has planted over the years now produce their own seeds, so that the forest essentially grows on its own.

However, this hasn’t caused Jadav to stop planting.

On the contrary, more seeds, for free, has meant that he’s been able to plant even more trees. He’s also able to devote more time to protecting them.

Remember, this is a project that started with just 20 bamboo shoots on a sandbar. Thanks to Jadav’s decades-long commitment and daily consistency, Majuli Island has not disappeared. Instead it’s been transformed into a more prosperous environment for plants, humans and animals – every living thing has benefited over time.

Achieving Exponential Growth

Like the forest, your investments can grow with the power of consistency in the hands of an investment manager like Prudential Investment Managers.

For Prudential, consistency is not measured only in producing excellent returns for our clients and protecting their wealth. It’s also about being consistently disciplined, consistently diligent and consistently determined, every day. That’s because we recognise that it doesn’t matter how good we are on any one day; we have to be consistently good day after day, month after month, and decade after decade.

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Our staff of over 170 professionals are firmly aligned behind our focus on achieving consistent investment excellence. We benefit from a flat management structure and our team-based approach allows our investment professionals to focus on what they do best - managing clients' savings.

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We’re a long-standing believer in shareholder activism, and we include economic, social and governance (ESG) factors as part of our fundamental investment analysis

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Achieving Exponential Growth

Jadav has fought to protect and grow his trees every day

Jadav's Goals

Over the years, Jadav’s goals have expanded in the same way as the forest itself.

Initially, he was totally focused on keeping those original bamboo shoots on that original sandbar alive. Once he’d turned the sandbar into a bamboo thicket, he set about introducing other species of tree, and then wildlife, starting with red ants.

As the forest grew and became known to his fellow islanders, his goals evolved from expansion to protection as well.

He had to persuade the villagers not to see the trees as a potential threat, harbouring dangerous animals. This was especially necessary after a herd of 100 or so elephants made it their home after marauding through nearby villages, not to mention the handful of resident Bengal tigers.

The real evolution, however, came once people around the world started to learn about the Forest Man of India’s efforts.

Exposed to the wider world, Jadav realised he wasn’t the only one fighting a seemingly unwinnable environmental battle.

While Jadav still looks after his forest, and has aspirations to create new forests on barren land elsewhere in India, he now hopes his achievement will inspire others to take better care of the world around them.

Jadav rows 5kms and cycles 1.5 hours just to reach his forest

Setting your goals

Everyone needs to set goals in order to live the life they want.

Would you like to drive a nice car? Travel the world? Have a large and happy family? Retire at 40?

To achieve any of these goals, you have to grow your financial resources through investing. Some require more time, some less, but it’s important to have your financial goals and plans firmly in place, giving you a better chance of reaching them.

Our goal calculator helps determine what monthly investment contribution you need to achieve your goals within a specified time period. Prudential also has a special retirement calculator to help in planning for the longer term.

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Jadav rows 5kms and cycles 1.5 hours just to reach his forest

Visitors are asked to plant a tree in Jadav’s forest, and again when they return home

Spreading the Message

In recent years, Jadav’s efforts have garnered global attention and he’s won awards from a variety of government and environmental organisations. In 2015, for instance, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.

While the awards are nice, he’d far rather people did more to protect fragile ecosystems like the one found on Mājuli Island.

“I worry about the fate of the world, like everyone else,” he says.

To that end, the Forest Man of India now gladly shows off his efforts to visitors from around the world. All he asks in return is that they plant a tree in his forest and, hopefully, follow his example when they return home.

He also talks about ‘planting’ this philosophy in the minds of children.

“In India, every child has to learn environmental science.”

"Education should be changed in such a way that each child should plant two trees, thus earning their own oxygen. If a child plants a tree, they will not let anyone cut it down. They will not let anyone harm the birds. They will not let anyone harm the animals. We must implement this in India and all over the world.”

This, he believes, can go a long way to saving the world from the worst effects of climate change.

“There will be no more global warming, if everyone plants forests,” he says.

As for Mājuli, Jadav thinks he can save it in 10 years.

A small investment and consistent performance every day can reap great rewards over time

A small investment and consistent performance every day can reap great rewards over time

Choosing the right investment to meet your goals

Once you have your financial goals and plans firmly in place, you need to decide which type of investments will best suit your unique needs – preferably with the help of a qualified financial adviser.

Choosing an appropriate unit trust depends on three main factors:

1) Your investment time horizon;
2) What level of risk you are able to tolerate; and
3) What type of returns or payments (income) you’d like to receive.

Prudential has a diverse range of funds to meet all timeframes, risk profiles and return objectives, including equity funds, balanced funds and income-focused funds.

Our Fund Selector tool helps you find the appropriate unit trust funds for you, based on your individual financial requirements.

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“It’s amazing what happens when you plant trees everyday.”

Behind the Scenes

The brief was simple. Find a true story that portrays the power of consistency.

Behind the scenes of the Forest Man of India commercial

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