Brazilian Photographer Restored Entire Forest Over 20 Years With 2.7 Million Trees

Brazilian Photographer Restored Entire Forest Over 20 Years With 2.7 Million Trees
Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado

As you grow up you gradually become aware of changes that go on around you. Have you ever wondered how your neighbourhood changes as you walk down those familiar streets a few years later? Well now imagine if you lived in a area surrounded by trees and then suddenly found that they had all vanished when you returned from a trip away? This is what happens when you have rampant deforestation taking place all over the world. There is global awareness of the problem, but very few countries are taking any steps towards helping with the issue. That’s why we all need to step up as individuals and help change mentalities.

Enter the award winning photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado.

When the Brazilian photojournalist returned home from a traumatic assignment of reporting on genocide in Rwanda, he was devastated when he saw the devastation that had taken place in his childhood land. The Minas Gerais, his home, which was once a paradise of tropical forests, had turned into a barren land with no trees and no wildlife.

In an interview, he described the land as sick, with only 0.5% of the area covered with forests. He found himself needing to help somehow, so that his homeland would not turn into another wasteland that so many modern forests are sadly becoming. Salgado’s wife, Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado, came up with the idea of afforestation, the replanting of the forest. They went on to inspire people, collect funds, gather teams, and recruit partners. By April 1998, Salgado had founded Instituto Terra with the purpose of transforming the barren lands back to the paradise it once was.

The Instituto Terra wanted to recover 1,502 acres of rainforest in the Bulcão Farm in Aimorés, Minas Gerais. In 1998, this land had become a cattle ranch once the deforestation had taken place. It was dubbed as Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR). Salgado went out for the first seed planting in December 1999 and continued to do so. Since they had the motivation to restore the rainforest back to the way it was, Salgado made it especially clear that the trees that were replanted should be native species. He had observed that if the trees were not native to the region, the native wildlife would not choose to return there, keeping the once deafening forest, forever silent. He planted over two million seedlings of 290 species of trees and other plants and the results proved to be amazing...

20 Year Results of Afforestation

Due to the process of replanting, it was also possible to stop soil erosion and as a result, the water resources present on the farm are gradually being replenished. They are reverting back to the pure state of quality and quantity that was once there. The eight natural springs that the forest had originally hosted are now back and flowing at a rate of around 20 litres a minute. Plus, the most exciting of all developments is the return of the fauna.

172 bird species have now returned, with 6 of those being endangered species. 33 species of mammals have also returned, with 2 of them being vulnerable and close to extinct worldwide. There has also been a return of 293 species of plants, 15 species of reptiles and 15 species of amphibians.

But that is not all the Instituto Terra have been doing. They have slowly turned this project into a ray of hope for the people who were aware of the environmental problems and knew why afforestation must be turned into a way of life. To spread this light of hope and awareness, the Instituto Terra created the Center for Environmental Education and Restoration (CERA), a place for research and education which focuses on environmental restoration. They have already looked into the various different models of development that currently exist and are trying to modify them to create models that could be used for sustainable development. As a result, by December 2012, the Instituto Terra had developed approximately 700 educational projects and brought in 65,000+ people who work in more than 170 municipalities present in the Valley of the River Doce. They cover the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, as well as reaching out to states of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia.

Salgado’s mission is now considered to have been successful. with only 10% of the PNHR left to be restored. According to Salgado, climate change occurs due to carbon dioxide and there is only one solution to lowering carbon dioxide – planting more trees! They are the only beings that absorb carbon dioxide and utilize it so well. The science is already there – the question is: what are we doing about it?