Brazilian Couple Spends 20 Years Planting Trees

June 4, 2019

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and wife Lélia have replanted an entire forest over the last 20 years

Photos reveal the incredible transformation from a desolate and barren plot of land to a lush and lively forest

When he returned from reporting in Rwanda in 1994, Salgado was shocked to find his family’s old cattle ranch completely destroyed by deforestation

He and his wife started planting seedlings in 1998 and rejuvenated the forest with millions over two decades

It is now ‘a fertile woodland, alive with flora and fauna’ to which ‘all the insects and birds and fish returned’

Nearly 300 species of trees, more than 170 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles now call the area home

Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado have spent the last 20 years planting an 1,750-acre forest to transform a barren plot of land in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state into a tropical paradise.

When Salgado returned from a traumatic trip covering the Rwandan genocide in 1994, he was shocked to find his family’s former cattle ranch in a state of natural degradation.

‘The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,’ the famed photographer said at a meeting on climate change in Paris in 2015. ‘Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees.’

Salgado, now 75, remembered the farm he grew up on as a lush and lively sub-tropical rainforest, but the area had suffered from rampant deforestation and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources.

His wife had the idea to replant the forest.

So the award-winning photographer known for his black-and-white depictions of human suffering around the world turned his hand to healing the land of his youth.

In 1998, the couple founded the Instituto Terra, an environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the valley.

They elicited the support of Vale, one of the world’s biggest mining companies and reforestation experts, which donated 100,000 seedlings from its nursery and helped rejuvenate the ‘dead soil’.

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