This Organisation Have Let People Plant 3.9 Million Trees For Loved Ones, Helping Marginalised Tribals To Thrive

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What would be the perfect gift for a friend who has always been by your side, or a loved one you never can do without? Well, expensive gift options are aplenty. But, what would be that one gift that truly conveys your feelings, without a glittery and proud price tag, one might wonder.

“We offer people to plant a tree in the name of their dear ones, at a nominal expense of just Rs 85. A consequent eTree Certificate would be delivered digitally to the recipient,” shares Bikrant Tiwary, the CEO of Grow-Trees.com.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

The decade-old organisation has helped plant more than 3.9 million trees in hinterlands of India, often inhabited by tribal communities, thereby reducing carbon emissions each year by a massive 78,252,500 kg. Alongside, the plantations have been saving endangered wildlife by restoring their habitats as well as providing forest-based resources to the tribal and local residents.

Why Grow-Trees stands out

In a conversation with Efforts For Good, Bikrant shares the principles, policies and achievements that set Grow-Trees a step ahead in the environmental non-profit sector. “Quite a lot of NGOs all over the work are doing tree plantation programmes. But in most cases, the expected change is not visible due to lack of consistency and determination. They plant trees after financial contribution from well-wishers. But Grow-Trees will plant around a million trees this monsoon, irrespective of whether people donate or not,” Bikrant asserts.

This is where Grow-Trees stand out since their initiative is driven by the goodwill and personal feelings of individuals. “We always plant trees in public lands. The work of the plantation programmes is spearheaded by tribal and local communities – people, mostly women, whose lives are intertwined with forests. At the same time, in a particular plantation zone, we grow only local species of trees,” he informs.

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Grow-Trees Earth Day
Trees For Rural Communities – Amravati, Maharashtra

 

How Grow-Trees started

The organization which now has its presence in 14 Indian states was started in 2010 by Karan Shah and his father Pradip Shah, the founder of the first credit-rating agency CRISIL. The idea sprouted in his mind thanks to a gesture of gratitude by Israel. In 1992, Shah had provided his insights and guidance in establishing a credit rating agency in Israel, who honoured him by planting 100 trees in his name.

Grow-Trees Earth Day
Women participate in tree planting at Sariska Tiger Reserve

“We want to inculcate the habit amongst individuals and companies to Greet with Trees – plant a real tree in public lands and dedicate it to greet employees/customers/friends with an attractive eTree Certificate. We have different thematic projects – Trees for Tribals, Trees for Elephants. These trees not only enable one to distinctively greet a friend but also help create incomes for rural residents, improve wildlife habitats, enhance water catchment, and fight climate change,” says Shah.

The project was officially launched on June 5, 2010, on the occasion of World Environment Day.

Empowering the tribals

Bikrant explains, “The saplings are developed from seeds and the months preceding the plantation season are spent on nurturing them in nurseries. The local communities participate in the work since they know they will benefit in terms of food, timber and other resources. Over 3,22,770 workdays of employment have been created for these local people in places where jobs are scarce.”

As for the planters, aside from individuals, more than 500 corporate firms are our regular clients, who honour their employees or customers by planting trees in their names.

“Before the start of any of our projects, we identify the regions needing afforestation and pre-evaluate the socio-environmental impact of the same. So far, all of our projects have yielded positive results in preserving the environment as well as uplifting the marginalized communities,” informs Bikrant.

Grow-Trees Earth Day
Women Empowerment

Trees for wildlife

“We have started the project Trees For Tigers at Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and Sunderbans in West Bengal. Over the last six years, we have planted almost 3,00,000 trees at Sariska, where officials now confirm two new tigers being spotted in that area. Earlier deforestation robbed them of their habitats, but our programme is restoring the home of the tigers,” Bikrant narrates about one of their many projects dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation.

Their wildlife-centric projects also comprise Trees For Sloth Bears and Trees For Indian Giant Flying Squirrels in Rajasthan, both of which are enlisted as endangered species.

“We plant trees surrounding the buffer zones of forests so that the forest-dependent communities do not need to venture deep into the jungle, causing human-animal conflict,” clarifies Bikrant.

Conserving water and purifying the air

The environmental impact of Grow-Trees plantation projects is not restricted to reducing the carbon footprint or preserving wildlife habitats. “In Sariska, we have seen a rise in the groundwater table. Similar results have been observed in other plantation zones as well. In Madhya Pradesh, we have planted forests on the banks of the tributaries of the Narmada river, aiming to increase water percolation, reduce flooding by decreasing soil erosion and enhancing the soil retention capacity,” he shares.

To address the notorious air pollution issues in the capital city of Delhi, Grow-Trees is preparing for their Trees For Life project.

Grow-Trees Earth Day

Efforts For Good take

Afforestation initiatives are reported across the country every now and then. However, a large percentage of those fail in the end, due to the absence of proper maintenance and nonchalance of the involved entities. In this context, Grow-Trees is perhaps the oldest and most committed plantation programme in India, not to mention the least expensive. With the engagement of stakeholders at all levels, Grow-Trees continue to ensure that the positive socio-environmental impact stays the utmost.

On the occasion of Earth Day on April 22, Grow-Trees is urging everyone to plant a tree for their dear ones, helping to save our mother planet in turn. You can also participate in the campaign by simply clicking on this link: https://www.grow-trees.com/earthday/

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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