Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who is Peepal Baba? What is the early motivation or influence that led to starting the initiative?
Swami Prem Parivartan is the founder trustee of Give Me Trees Trust. He has dedicated 40 years to this initiative. His work of peepal trees ( ficus religiosa ) is so humungous that people and media nicknamed him Peepal Baba in the 1980s. His life is nothing but a story of building a large constituency of volunteers across regions who now work for propagation and promotion of the peepal tree. His insistence on preserving and serving each tree sapling for a period of two years from the date of planting, became the mantra for his volunteers. The more people understood his work, the more joined him.
Early motivations arose from his experiences of deforestation that he witnessed all around him. He travelled across several states to convince people to protect this tree. Driving on his motorcycle across regions, he went about spreading awareness on forest trees and their importance to the survival of the human race. The ever-diminishing number of Peepal trees from roadsides, countryside, farms, highways, roads and forest areas, disturbed him enough to keep going one year after the other.
He was inspired by his school teacher while studying in the fourth grade to plant trees, and that became his lifelong mission as time passed. His love for the natural world, trees, bees, birds and butterflies, rivers, forests, farms and mountains, kept him on his path of working with trees. Forty years (1977-2017), is a good enough period for someone to grow into his mission as much as the mission to grow into him. Today, Give Me Trees Trust is an institution in its own right.
He is fondly called ‘Peepal Baba’ because he has devoted his entire life towards planting Peepal trees. He is the largest planter of Peepal Trees in the world, having planted more than 12 million trees across India. Though the actual number of trees planted is far higher than 20 mllion, Give Me Trees maintains that 12 million is the number that has survived the test of time. It is one of the largest tree planting and preservation initiatives in our country today, with over 7000 volunteers as the soul of this effort. Give Me Trees evolved on a simple mantra of plant only that which you can preserve. “Bring back your trees” appeal to the volunteers, motivated the community to preserve their saplings like ‘children’.
2. What is Give Me Trees Trust and how was it started?
Give Me Trees started as an eco club floated by a 11 year old boy, named Swami Parivartan, in the city of Pune in the state of Maharashtra in India. It all started as a hobby club with a handful of young friends in January 1977. The hobby club grew into a wave of community gatherings and later into a movement of sorts across the country.
Give Me Trees reached out to several towns and villages and promoted the planting of Peepal ( ficus religiosa) and Neem ( azadrichta indica ) trees in a big way. Towns in states like Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh produced volunteers for this effort and gradually caught the fancy of many government schools. Children started connecting in large numbers and as the young brigade increased, so did the numbers of trees planted and preserved.
Give Me Trees mission is to preserve what is planted. Volunteers are trained and instructed at every step and it has become an effective conservation movement for Peepal and Neem trees across the country. With advent of social media, this initiative found friends across borders and influenced several individuals and NGOs, clubs and organizations to take to tree planting and preservation seriously.
3. What is the larger issue that you are trying to address?
The larger issue is to create an action oriented volunteer constituency who love the natural world and don’t just express their love for nature and its constituents but do something concrete, tangible, measureable in such a way that it impacts not just this generation but several generations to come in the future.
4. What were the early challenges faced by Peepal Baba?
Early challenges included mobilizing of resources such as working hands, transporting water, manure and digging tools, development of nurseries for saplings. Land for sapling development was an early challenge. Trees were not considered ‘priority’ work for the communities back then when it all started.
Family was uneasy with his hobby of planting trees during his student days, but they stepped back from stopping him when they saw his devotion to his trees.
5. What has been the impact so far?
Give Me Trees has planted more than 20 million trees across the country out of which more than 12 million have survived. This work has been done in the past 40 years. More than 7000 volunteers create the backbone of this movement.
Maximum trees planted are in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Other major states for plantation have been Delhi NCR, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra.
Operations are managed from Delhi headquarters which got its government registration as a environment charity (non profit trust ) in October 2011. For nearly 34 years Give Me Trees was a movement for the nature lovers, till it became a legal entity with its registration as a charitable trust. For the past 5 years its work and funding has gone through audit process and submitted to the government on an annual basis.
Give Me Trees is supported by individuals and CSR support initiatives of organizations such as HCL Foundation, Reliance Brands, Blossom Kochhar group of companies, Jamuna Auto, Just Dial, Karma Lakelands, Honda Trading, XL Catlin, Indian Army, Delhi government and several schools and educational institutions.
6. What kind of trees do you plant? Where have you been primarily planting trees, which regions?
Give Me Trees plants only shade trees which are also called forest or native trees. Only those trees with good foliage and large canopy are preferred for the simple reason that they are the keystone to any environment conservation program.
Give Me Trees has planted and preserved in every state of India, except the southern state of Kerala. Focus is on planting Peepal and Neem trees to keep planting and preservation education and instruction easy on the volunteers. During planting drives, regional varieties are preferred. Since peepal and neem trees can grow well in all corners of India, they are encouraged in large numbers.
Do you plant the trees according to the terrain and the climate of the region?
Survival of trees depends on planting and preserving those varieties of trees which are native or indigenous to that region. Only then they will survive and blend into the ecology of the region. Oaks are preferred for the mountain terrains, peepal for the countryside and open forests, neem for urban habitats such as roads, parks and schools. Basic thumb rule is always plant native varieties.
7. A huge part of any plantation drive is to maintain the plants after the sowing. How do you ensure that it’s done? Do you conduct any awareness/training programmes with the locals to help them maintain the plants? How does it work?
Residents and communities form the backbone of our preservation and conservation teams. School students to retired army officers, bureaucrats to shopkeepers, teenagers to housewives, all are given a schedule and training how to maintain the tree saplings in their areas. Practical training, hands on approach and providing them the right role models is the key. Give Me Trees has a simple work model of working in small teams which are manageable and accountable. ‘Survival’ reports are sought from volunteers and teams working across the country. Counting is done for the surviving tree numbers and never for the planted.
8. Any future plans or message to people reading this?
Tree planting is not a ritual for the monsoon. It has to be a serious priority for the community and the government, throughout the year. We are on the brink of extinction if we do not get back our trees. All talk is hollow if not backed by solid action, Trees are not a topic to be discussed but ‘planted and preserved’. Laptops and software cannot plant and preserve trees, hence, people with serious intent and motivation are required. Focus has to be on preservation of what is being planted. No trees, no life. Awareness is increasing day by day. But awareness has to be backed by right action.