It is heartbreaking seeing your old home and surroundings getting drastically transformed. A couple decided to bring back the lush forests to a now barren land where they once lived. In 20 years, the couple created a forest of 1,502 acres of land with more than 500 species of endangered plants and animals.
Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado was stationed in Rwanda to cover the horrific accounts of Rwanda genocide, in the early 1990s. the on-ground experience was traumatizing and he decided to go back home to find some peace and love. With a heavy heart, he went back home so that he could just be with nature and relax. He went back to Minas Gerais, Brazil where his hometown is.
He wanted to go to the place so that he could feel closer to nature and relive his childhood memories. But what he witnessed after getting there was not what he expected. While he was expecting the lush green forests with different kinds of animals and plants. But after reaching his hometown he could only see barren lands as far as his eyes could go. He shared with The Guardian, “The land was as sick as I was. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees.”
After witnessing his condition and sadness his wife Leila decided that she would make sure that the forest returns. She proposed an idea of getting back the forest, the peace and solace back to which Salgado agreed. With each other’s support, the couple was set to achieve their heroic mission. The first step taken by the couple was purchasing the abandoned cattle ranch from Salgado’s parents.
Then they created a network of enthusiast workers and volunteers who wished to save the forest. In 1998, the couple founded Instituto Terra, the organization aimed to tirelessly work and bring back their forest to life. All the partners and volunteers funded whatever they could to ensure that their project would sustain. The first seed was sowed by Salgado in December 1999.
Initially, 24 workers joined the project who worked day and night to bring back their forest. Over the years the organization grew and even got grants to sustain its project. The 24 workers removed the weeds from the ground so that they could plant new seeds for tropical trees. The organization even got 1 Lakh saplings which could be planted in the barren land ready for new seedlings.
The zone which was once barren has been declared as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve which is a rich biodiversity zone. The biodiversity zone has more than 2 million plants of 293 different species and a total of 1,502 acres of the area of lush forest. This has been the greatest environmental initiative in the world to date. It has not only helped with getting back nature but also helped with the problem of soil erosion and species getting extinct.
The once dried up natural water springs, now flow at 20 minutes per liter flow and has relieved the drought-prone area. The couple has brought back the forest to life in 20 years and more than 500 species of plants and animals breed in the 1,502 acres of the forest land.