Brazilian Couple Plant a Whole Forest of Two Million Trees in Twenty Years

Pedro Marrero
May 10, 2019
06:46 A.M.

Renowned photographer Sebastiao Salgado and his wife Leila managed to replant a tropical forest and now, twenty years later, the place looks unrecognizable.


It was in 1998 when the renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife, Lelia Deluiz, found themselves with a depressing scenario: the green forest they remembered, from the municipality of Aimorés (Minas Gerais, Brazil), was totally deserted.

Salgado was just looking for some peace after he returned home from East Africa, where he documented the horrors of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. "The land was as sick as I was - everything was destroyed. Only about 0.5 percent of the land was covered in trees," said the photographer.


In effect, the place was completely deforested, suffered an intense drought and the soil that had to be fertile was totally eroded. All this devastation occurred as a result of the indiscriminate use of natural resources by farmers who raised livestock on the spot.


Together with his wife, Salgado moved to the Hacienda Bulcão, located in the middle of that rural environment that had once been a dense forest. But the brave photographer felt that he could not stay with his arms crossed and should do whatever was necessary to recover what had been lost.


Salgado said that the land was covered only by trees by 0.5%. That seriously damaged environment aroused the inspiration of his wife Lélia, who came up with the brilliant idea of replanting the forest.

Considering that it was an arduous task, Leila and Sebastião raised funds to create their environmental organization, Instituto Terra. This is how they started to plant only native trees and plants, so as not to affect the original ecosystem of the place.


The first seed was planted in December 1999. The couple hired about 24 workers to help in the process of planting and reforesting, but as the news became known, many came to help voluntarily.


It was a day and night job in which thousands of trees were planted every day. In more than 1500 hectares, 2 million new plants of 290 different tree species were planted and, thanks to the educational center for the restoration of the environment, the population was sensitized.


Salgado explained: “We need to replant the forest. You need forest with native trees, and you need to gather the seeds in the same region you plant them or the serpents and the termites won’t come. And if you plant forests that don’t belong, the animals don’t come there and the forest is silent.”

Other people of influence should follow Salgado´s steps and use their power to raise awareness about climate change and the things we could do help the planet. Just like Meghan Markle did during her first royal tour; she was captured helping a group of kids to plant some trees in New Zeland.

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