The Brazilian photographer and the 20-year reforestation project of over 2.7 million trees

A project so important, that even actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio gave it the attention it deserved. A project bound to restore a significant amount of lost woods, making the 10-year challenge worth it. What is it that we may be referring to? Buckle up, this will be fun.

In the 90s, a Brazilian photographer decide to kick off a project which will soon revitalize woodland across the globe. By 2019, this environmental project will have planted over 290 trees, thus facing a massive fauna comeback as well. Here, we are talking insects, reptiles, mammals, birds,and others.

Established photographer Sebastião Salgado, along with his wife LéliaDeluizWanick Salgado, began the project disappointed by the mistreatment of forestland across the globe. What is more, the Salgado already faced firsthand deforestation, after its ranch was massively destructed. This was, in fact, the family’s starting point of initiating the project altogether.

Think Globally, Act Locally

This might as well have been the Salgados’ motto, as they started their forestation journey at home, in the state of Minas Gerais. Sebastião Salgado remembered that as a child, the area used to boom with wildlife and flora, most of which was destructed by humankind.

This was simply heartbreaking to realize. So, in 1994, Salgado had another life-changing experience, after visiting Rwanda during its greatest crisis.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Salgado stated. “Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees.”

The idea of replantation came to Salgado’s wife Lélia, and it didn’t take the couple long before actually putting their idea to practice. Finally, in 1998, the couple did a fundraiser and opened the Instituto Terra as a result. Today, the institute can be proud of planting over 2 million trees, giving the environment a whole new life.

“Perhaps we have a solution. There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. 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. We need to listen to the words of the people on the land. Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised,” Salgado told The Guardian.


In time, the couple’s institute recovered 1,502 acres of land in Minas Gerais alone. Their farm was even awarded with the Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR).

Raising Environmental Awareness

The project itself was a great foundation for the Salgados to begin their worldwide mission of raising deforestation awareness.

As a result, the institute founded the Center for Environmental Education and Restoration (CERA). Their main objective was to inform people on how important it is to preserve the environment and its wildlife. By making an effort of planting a tree, we will be able to make up for the lost flora and fauna. The center works hard to create the latest technology which will help put an emphasis on the importance of forestation bare land.

The mission itself showed staggering results in terms of species returning post-deforestation. In fact, around 172 species have returned altogether. Out of all, 33 species were mammals, 15 species were amphibians; 15 species were reptiles, and 293 species were plants.


The Salgado family, supported by their institute and environmental awareness center is determined to enrich the Atlantic Forest even more. With that, plenty of endangered species are expected to return, both animals and plants.

In their minds, everyone can contribute to a healthier and more vital environment. Not all is lost, and everything can be replaced in time. All it takes is for us to show our environment the respect it deserves, and vow to never stop rebuilding it.



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