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Brazilian Couple Protects an Entire Forest

Climate change, pollution, and building have taken their toll on trees around the globe. This destruction was witnessed by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia in a forest close their home town.

As a consequence, an environmental initiative was launched that accomplished notable outcomes, turning barren soil once again into lush forest.

Replanting the forest

In 1994, Sebastião came to East Africa to photograph the Rwandan genocide on a long-term task. When he returned home, he discovered that dusty, barren soil stretched out for miles instead of the forest he expected to see.

His hometown had been rampantly deforested, and most of the forest trees were cut down. The wildlife had also passed away with the lack of trees and the drying up of rivers, finding food and shelter elsewhere.

Lélia voiced her intention to replant the entire forest at this moment. Sebastião endorsed the concept, and the mammoth task of replanting and restoring the forest to its former glory was taken upon themselves.

They understood that it would be difficult for them to do it alone, as the forest-covered 1,750 acres.

Initially, the pair employed 24 employees to assist them in replant. They had to get rid of the weeds, plant the seeds and water the fresh crops afterward. Soon volunteers joined them in helping with the planting initiative.

Other partners have been discovered, and the effort has been donated by people. The forest started to revive slowly. Sebastião and Lélia began a non-profit organization of the environment, Instituto Terra.


The organization helps teach the conservation of forests to farmers, kids, educators, and others and draws more attention to their work.

The result of their efforts


More than four million saplings have been planted since the first seed was sown in December 1999. The ultimate objective has been achieved to restore the ecosystem.


What once was arid soil has turned into lush greenery. The region's indigenous tropical forests are thriving, and over 500 endangered plants and animal species have become home to the forest. This involves 293 species of plants and birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.


Reforestation also contributed to soil erosion control. Natural water springs flow freely again in the region that had dried up now. As a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, the biodiversity-rich area has lately been proclaimed.

Consciousness, resolution, and partnership


The understanding, determination, and cooperative effort of this couple have shown that deforestation can be reversed. Planting trees can assist address climate change impacts by transforming CO2 into oxygen.

We could still have an effect on the destruction we inflicted on the planet with patience and persistence. If in 20 years this couple and some volunteers could bring back a forest, imagine how much it could be achieved if we all came together to defend the environment.