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Sowing the seeds of a dream; profiles of people who make a difference for trees and forests.

Balbir Mathur wants to help reforest the world and feed its

s already gone far to make this dream a reality. Seven years ago he founded Trees for Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to planting fruit and forest trees in Third World countries.

Mathur sees Trees for Life as something of a laboratory, developing methods to restore a deforested environment and feed the world's hungry with the fruits of its trees. Since its inception in 1983, Trees for Life has planted over a million trees in five states in India. Last January alone, it distributed over 200,000 saplings at a Hindu religious festival. About one third of the trees he distributes are fruit trees, the rest are forest trees.

It was in 1982, while working as a consultant to help international businesses set up joint ventures, that Mathur felt the urge to do something about deforestation.

In 1983, while visiting India, he decided to plant some fruit trees and persuaded 2,500 villagers not only to accept and plant them, but to plant 18 more from their seeds each year.

Back in Wichita, he told a class of eighth-grade students about that, and they were stirred to start a fund drive to send 103 fruit trees to India.

"In that class that day was born the idea for Trees for Life," Mathur said.

Now, Trees for Life works to provide India with trees for food, fuel, and reforestation. Mathur works with a staff of three employees and about 45 volunteers in India and America. This year marked Trees for Life's expansion into Nepal and the distribution of its one millionth tree. By 1992, Mathur hopes to distribute up to five million trees per year. In this country, Trees for Life has a Grow-a-Tree division, which distributes materials, seeds, and instructions to schools, and encourages summer camps for student projects.

But Mathur's most ambitious project is a petition drive calling upon the leaders of the U.S. and Soviet Union to join in a move to plant 100 million fruit trees in developing countries.

Mathur calls that "a drop in the bucket" toward restoring the depleted forests. But, he said, "These 100 million trees will be an announcement of our commitment to end world hunger and to stop the destruction of the environment."
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Title Annotation:Balbir Mathur
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:column
Date:May 1, 1989
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