Producers Spotlight: SayTrees
The Regenerative Forestry Movement Born of Deforestation in the City of Bangalore
The Green Warriors of Bengalore
An article in The Logical Indian dubbed them “The Green Warriors of Bengalore”.
The moniker is well earned. For seven years now, SayTrees has worked tirelessly, recruiting the help of individuals and corporate teams alike to help transform and restore the landscape in Bangalore.
SayTrees is an NGO working to restore city landscapes in India through the creation of urban forests. Made up of ordinary people who are extraordinarily determined to protect the environment, this professionally-run group strives to make others aware of the importance of ecological conservation, inviting them to participate in tree-planting campaigns.
It is their mission to empower people to give back to nature. SayTrees has successfully inspired citizens to contribute just a few hours on weekends to make their cities—and their lives—greener. With a survival rate of 90% of 70,000 saplings planted, they are doing a wonderful job.
SayTrees runs on a vast network of volunteers numbering in the thousands. Stakeholders range from young children to busy professionals and Goldman Sachs to housewives, schools, and retired citizens—all helping to reforest, support farmers with fruit trees, revive lakes and bodies of water, install solar lamps in villages, and generally empower a whole country by planting trees.
The organization was founded by Kapil Sharma, who fell in love with Bangalore, “The City of Gardens,” as a college student. The green trees lining the road he traveled on his way to work were a welcome and soothing view—until Kapil noticed some changes marking the city’s natural canopy.
The corporatization of the city and the rapid influx of IT industry jobs and investments took a toll on the natural beauty that had blessed Bangalore. Kapil watched as, slowly but surely, the greenery made way for a bigger road or a new building.
Buildings surged as trees fell, until the day the city he once loved threatened to become barren and unrecognizable with the rampant deforestation.
“I could sense an uncertain future for my beloved city. I felt I had to do something […]. Every weekend, I used to visit the offices of BBMP or Forest Department seeking their help to save Bengaluru from impending environmental peril. I started looking for places in the city where I can plant trees, with the assurance that they won’t be cut down within a few years for infrastructure projects”
—Kapil Sharma, SayTrees Founder
Growing up to 24,000 volunteers
What started as a passion project in 2007 with the planting of one sapling outside his house has grown into a movement. Each year, thousands of nature-lovers from different walks of life participate in planting and maintaining thousands of saplings. SayTrees began with the help of a few friends and family. Over time, however, large donors, nature-lovers, and volunteers rallied to restore Bangalore to her former green glory.
Kapil, a software professional, figured it was key to involve the booming IT industry of Bangalore in the plantation initiative. He explained, “I approached the top software companies and suggested they involve their employees in our programs as a team-building activity. Our community soon grew in leaps and bounds, standing today with a staggering 24,000 volunteers.”
SayTrees has successfully recruited giants like DELL, Adobe, Citrix, HP, Mercedes-Benz, and Deloitte, among others, to partner on corporate social responsibility.
The organization’s growing influence led Kapil Sharma to represent India at a United Nations summit during World Forestry Congress in 2015.
Today, the nine-member team, headed by Kapil, has expanded to partake in regenerative initiatives in Mumbai, Delhi, and villages in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.
3 lakes and 36,000 saplings
Constantly evolving, SayTrees recently added rejuvenating bodies of water to their mission. In total, the organization has rejuvenated three lakes so far in Bangalore and Thoppur, replenishing and securing over 200,000,000 liters of water for use, and preserving the habitat and biodiversity of the surrounding areas.
They have also begun implementing the Japanese “Miyawaki” method of tree planting. The green answer to cities that are becoming concrete jungles, Miyawaki forestry involves the planting of many different saplings close to one other, which helps them grow 10 times faster, and makes forests 30 times denser, in a remarkable timespan.
SayTrees’ initiatives help farmers to secure a stable income through agroforestry. Beginning in Anantapur district, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, 11 farmers planted 4,000 saplings for a variety of fruit trees. After the success of this pilot, the process is now being replicated in villages across the country. Today, thanks to 274 farmers in four different states, SayTrees can proudly say it has planted over 36,000 saplings.
SayTrees currently spearheads a range of initiatives including research, education, sensitization, and advocacy around environmental preservation and the importance of reforestation in India.
What does the future hold for them, besides adding solar power and plastic recycling to the already-impressive mix? Kapil Sharma’s bio statement sets the tone for future projections:
“Every empty land is a potential forest for him. He starts every morning with just one thought “How to Sustain all life on earth”?”
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