Childless, Yet Mothering…Through Green Philanthropy


The concept of legacy, as it relates childless women, pops up regularly in comments to this site. To anyone who pities our “incompleteness,” whatever we leave behind is scant. Ephemeral when compared to birthing a new generation of humans. Like most sweeping generalizations, that dog won’t hunt.

Women, with kids and without, are smart and oh so creative. And, many a NotMom refuses to be dismissed as a fading footprint in the sands of time. Nanki Devi of the Rewa district in central India is the latest, fabulous proof.

After failing to have a child, she and her husband, Dinanth Koll, 55, spent the last 25 years planting and nurturing 50,000 trees across 105 acres of land. Dinanath told The Times of India, “It was my wife Nanki Devi who had suggested that we plant saplings and treat them as our children.”

No big surprise there.

The effort would be impressive even if the growers were wealthy and easily able to acquire land and labor. That’s not the case. This couple had little resources to give their community such a gift of green. What they had was ingenuity.

In 1990, traveling a road where a tribal ceremony had just ended, Dinanth found a large quantity of mango seeds and took them home. “As we had no money to purchase saplings, we planted these on the forest land,” he said.

Yes. They started planting within an existing forest. That’s thinking outta the box. Naturally, their neighbors laughed. Dinanath said:

“We were often dubbed as crazy by the villagers and forest officials who did not take our efforts for plantation on forest land seriously. But things have changed over the past 25 years and now people are acknowledging our efforts.”

Indeed.  B ecause of the couple’s dedication, today the area is now “famous”, known as Prem Van. On World Environment Day 2013 (June 5), the childless pair was honored by a local NGO (non-governmental organization). Two years ago, the same villagers who once belittled the project voted unanimously that no one shall ever enter Prem Van with an axe. Their ruling is strictly enforced.

How might you channel your energies toward a lasting gift to the world?

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