A desert becomes a forest: how one farmer proved a government wrong


Anand Dhawaj Negi is a man that has spent his life growing plants. A farmer in India, he had decades of experience in cultivating various crops. After retirement from his work with the government, Negi decided to take on a task he believed he could accomplish despite the failure of so many others.

Negi turned his attention to the 1 million acres deemed uncultivable in Kinnaur, a rugged, mountainous region in northern India. The agricultural department of the government deemed the area uncultivable due to its elevation, cold temperatures, and soil quality. The conditions were disappointing, as the government had initially hoped to settle the area.

The retired gentleman began his efforts by testing multiple farming and cultivation methods to find solutions that would allow him to grow saplings in soil deemed unusable. His savings were decimated as he took an extremely high mortality rate of 85 percent for the saplings and dropped it to a stunning one percent. The process took time, and each loss became a lesson that directed the ambitious man towards the solution.

Negi proved that the soil was not useless as the government suggested. The saplings grew and thrived and are now a forest of 160 acres in the center of the massive desert that the farmer tends to on his own. It is not only trees that grow in this now lovely area. Negi has enabled the ground to produce potatoes, peas, and kidney beans as well as fruit like apples and apricots. The forest includes rubiniya trees and willow poplars. The farmer chooses the vegetation wisely as he grows products that have roots that decompose and help the soil become more fertile with time.

As beautiful and lush as the land is, the achievement is not the best thing Negi has accomplished with this project. The determined farmer shares his information with locals, so they can also cultivate their food as well as grow greenery that benefits everyone. So far 170 farmers have received land in the area from the government and some have worked with the talented farmer to learn his techniques.

Negi, an environmentalist, is not done with his efforts. The man is also working on the cultivation of coniferous trees in his area to help combat the dangerous effects of climate change taking place in the region. Negi chose evergreens because they stay green all year and can take in carbon from the air for more months than deciduous trees. Negi is also now seeking other natural areas that need his help.