Couple create new rainforest by planting 2,000,000 trees over 20 years

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Before and after shots of the now thriving rainforest in the Minas Gerais region (Picture: Instituto Terra)

A married couple have helped breathe new life into the world’s lungs by restoring a barren plot of land into a healthy rainforest.

Photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and his wife Lélia decided to replant the forest seeing how the area around his family’s cattle ranch had diminished.

Now 20 years later, the 1,754-acre plot of land is the lush and verdant forest Salgado remembered as a child.

Salgado returned to his native Brazil to take over his family’s ranch in the Minas Gerais region nearly 30 years ago after documenting the harrowing genocide in Rwanda.

Over two decades the barren plot of land was transformed (Instituto Terra)
Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Salgado (Picture: Instituto Terra)
The area is a paradise once again and home to an array of animals and plants (Picture: Instituto Terra)
Before and after pictures show the progress that’s been made (Picture: Instituto Terra)
Salgado thinks planting native trees could be the solution to global warming (Picture: Instituto Terra)

The abundant forest he remembered as a boy had shrivelled down so much only 0.5 per cent of the land was covered with trees.

He told the Guardian: ‘The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed.’

Restoring the land to its former glory would be a mammoth task, so in 1998 the Salgados set up the Instituto Terra – an organisation ‘dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce.’

Now the area has status as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve and is home to 172 types of birds, 33 varieties of mammals and 15 kinds of reptiles and amphibians.

More: Brazil

Hundreds of species of trees and plants now grow there, dried up springs have started flowing again and the micro-climate has changed.

Reflecting on the success of the project, Salgado said: ‘All the insects and birds and fish returned, and, thanks to this increase of the trees, I too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.’

Salgado thinks a ‘spiritual return to our planet’ is needed to save it from destruction and says replanting forests with trees, which turn CO2 to oxygen, is one answer to climate change.

He added: ‘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.’

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