Indian Village Plants Future for Young Girls

For each girl born in the village of Piplantri, the community plants 111 trees.

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Harvesting is one of the central aspects of life in the Indian village of Piplantri, which plants 111 trees every time a girl is born, plants aloe vera around the trees, and makes products from the succulent plant.

Judging by recent headlines, India has a long way to go when it comes to standing up for the rights of women. But in the small Indian village of Piplantri, the news is quite different.

Over the past six years, the village — which has a population of 6,000 and is located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan — has planted more than a quarter of a million trees as the centerpiece of a community-wide effort to ensure a better life for girls born there.

According to the English-language Indian newspaper the Hindu, 111 trees are planted whenever a girl is born in Piplantri. It’s more than a symbolic gesture. While planting a tree doesn’t automatically erase gender inequality or grant new rights to Indian women, Piplantri is trying to use the trees as a way to rally the community toward collective action.

When a girl is born, her family signs an agreement saying it will help tend to the trees. It also promises to send the girl to school and wait until she’s reached legal age (18) before pressing her to marry. The villagers contribute around $380 for each newborn girl and deposit it into an account. The parents contribute about $180. The funds cover expenses such as school fees.

The initiative has also helped buoy the town’s economy. To keep termites away from the trees, many of which bear fruit, the village has planted more than 2.5 million aloe vera plants around them. “Gradually, we realized that aloe vera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways,” the paper quotes one village leader as saying. So the community now produces and markets aloe-based products like juice and gel, among other things.

A leading member of the village started the initiative in honor of his own daughter, who died a few years ago.