In the News:
Plant a Life-Giving Tree

by Sarika Mehta, The Hindu Business Line

Posted January 18, 2007

The Hindu Business Line

"But when I take into account the constancy, the greatness of soul, and the selfless dedication that was needed to bring about this transformation, I am filled with an immense respect for this old, uncultured peasant who knew how to bring about a work worthy of God."
-- Jean Giono's The Man Who Planted Trees

About 18 billion fruit trees worldwide (three for every living person).... that's the goal of the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF). Comprising a highly motivated group of people, it is a non-profit charity dedicated to planting fruit trees and edible plants to benefit the environment and its inhabitants.

FTPF provides support, resources and guidance for those interested in planting fruit trees and spearheads a variety of planting programmes. Its work is aimed at enriching the environment, providing nutritious food sources for wild and rescued animals, and improving human health by bringing delicious, fresh, locally grown raw fruits and vegetables of the best quality into the lives of people. It also seeks to secure land around the world.

"Most of FTPF's programmes take place in the US; however, we are an international charity with a growing international component. We have additional projects in Africa, Central America, and India which have been implemented," says Cem Akin, Director, FTPF. In August 2006, FTPF travelled to Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh to donate more than 250 fruit bearing trees and an irrigation well to the Food for Life Vrindavan (FFLV), a hunger relief group serving 1,200 free meals daily to needy families. The harvest from the FTPF orchard will be a source of fresh, organic nutrition for children in a region where malnutrition is a leading cause of death among the children.

The tie-up indeed proved to be a 'fruitful' one. Akin explains: "We were familiar with the many effective food relief programmes Food for Life Global (FFL) has implemented around the world (in fact, FTPF made a large donation of produce to FFL for use in its Hurricane Katrina emergency food relief efforts during September 2005). We wanted to partner with one of its India branches (FFLV) to provide a unique opportunity to feed hungry families and proposed the idea of a donated fruit tree orchard."

Timely effort

Vrindavan was recommended by FFL headquarters because of the many struggling families it touches every day with its food distribution programme and the availability of suitable land to sustain a large and vibrant fruit tree orchard.

At the other end, Rupa Raghunath Das, Executive Director of FFLV, was coordinating the efforts of FTPF and the local people. "It was very timely. We had just been donated land and had already started farming organic vegetables which supplied our food programme, which feeds more than 1,500 meals daily. We were just discussing how to plant trees on the barren land around Vrindavan which used to be a forest," says Das. Both sides immediately recognised the vast potential afforded by the unique project that would eventually ensure nutrition on a large scale for families year after year, and decades to follow.

After discussions over the land, water source and tree varieties, it was mutually agreed that the trees would be planted in August 2006 in Vrindavan. "This was during the monsoon which helped a lot to nourish the saplings. We did the preliminary work of drilling a well, building a pump house, fencing the allotted land and did the necessary research for suitable fruit trees to plant," says Das. All these efforts were funded by FTPF. The research and information gathered from a local nursery was passed on to FTPF together with a detailed financial estimate.

An FTPF representative was on location to oversee and participate in the planting efforts. Varieties that would provide maximum nutrition such as amla and pomegranate were chosen, as well as those that would be well received by children such as mangoes and bananas. Trees that provide above-average bounties, such as guava, were also favoured. Local nurseries helped with advice on trees most suited for the region. In all, FTPF donated and planted 262 trees and shrubs of the following varieties: guava, karod, lemon, banana, amla, shatoot, mango, pomegranate and jamun.


And what about the care needed for the growing trees? Akin is confident the project is in very capable and caring hands with FFLV. "In fact, one of the reasons we chose them as a recipient is that they have the expertise, experience, and commitment to maintaining the orchard so that it provides benefits for many years to come. Nonetheless, FTPF plans on providing hands-on aftercare in the future as we will be visiting the region to implement the Trees for Life programme and other similar orchard donations in India," he adds. Trees for Life, a monthly fruit tree distribution programme for needy families, completed its pilot programme and is gearing up to launch full-scale (at least 200 families per month) by early 2007, this being a joint project with FFLV.

"Right now the trees are small but within two years we should be able to have regular supply of fruit for our food programmes; the impact could be exceptional," says Das. Especially as a large number of girls in poor families suffer from anæmia, and they will benefit from the guava fruit, for example, which is a storehouse of energy and vitamins.

For further information please log on to Fruit Tree Planting Foundation and Food For Life Vrindavan, or contact Rupa Raghunath prabhu directly.

Reposted from The Hindu Business Line

Fruitful labour: Volunteers plant fruit trees in Vrindavan as part of an aid project.

A highly motivated group of people who plant fruit trees to fight malnutrition and care for the environment.