Every year, the Earth loses about 18 million acres of forests, which is equal to the size of Panama. Such significant changes in the environment affect not only humans but countless animals species have to leave their natural habitats and seek home somewhere else. No doubt, our common task today is to stop the destruction of our planet by any means possible. And a Brazilian couple, Sebastião and Lélia Salgado, have proven that anyone can make an impact and turn deforestation on its head.
We at Bright Side found out exactly how this dedicated couple managed to achieve such great results and turn a piece of desolate landscape into a wildlife paradise.
It all started with a simple dream about a peaceful life.
Back in 1994, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado returned home from East Africa where he was documenting the horrors of the Rwanda genocide. After this traumatic experience, he was looking for peace in the lush green forest of his native land in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil.
However, what he saw there was even more devastating — over a few years, a rich forest had turned into a severely damaged and dusty landscape with dried-up rivers and without any trace of wildlife. The land was only 0.5% covered in trees. Salgado was shattered.
At this time, his wife Lélia made a near-impossible proposal. She believed that their forest could be restored to its former glory if they put all their effort into it. Sebastião supported her idea and the couple decided to replant the entire area with a species that once flourished there. Since then, a miraculous transformation has taken place.
The dream of planting a forest was shared with others.
Salgado sowed his very first seed in 1998, but obviously 2 people weren’t enough to do such tremendous work. In order to restore their deserted piece of 1,754 acre forest land, the couple hired 24 people who worked day and night together with the owners, uprooting invasive weeds, planting new seedlings, and watering the plants.
At the same time, Sebastião started building a network of enthusiastic volunteers and partners who would fund and sustain their immense project. To attract attention to their mission, the couple set up an environmental organization, the Instituto Terra.
The main goal of the Instituto Terra is to restore the ecosystem in the areaby producing Atlantic Forest seedlings. It also has an ambitious educational campaign which involves school children, teachers, farmers, and local officials. To increase awareness of the problem, the institute even provides advice to farmers, miners, and other people working in the forest region.
The organization’s hard work paid off — tropical trees, native to the region, quickly started flourishing even though this area had suffered from severe deforestation for decades. Today, it’s a lush forest that has been completely reborn and is thriving again.
The results turned out to be really impressive.
Since 1998, the couple has planted over 4 million saplings of 293 species of trees and restored 1,502 acres of tropical forest. Once a barren land, the area has been transformed back to its original state of a tropical paradise.
Thanks to the new forest, an entire ecosystem was rebuilt from scratch. This reforestation has resulted in the rebirth of a tropical microclimate, bringing back increased rainfall and creeks filled with water.
Surprisingly enough, the healthy ecosystem of the new forest saved more than just the local landscape — it also stimulated wild animals to return to the area.
The return of wild animals is the most important positive aspect of a new forest. Since there’s enough food and protection for them now, more than 172 species of birds, 33 types of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles have come home, and many of them are endangered.
The Salgado’s determination has proven that the biggest accomplishments can be achieved through even the smallest steps and any of us can contribute to the protection of our planet in our own personal way.
What do you think of the Salgado’s project? Have you personally ever planted a tree? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!