Photographer and his wife spent the last 20 years planting more than 2 million trees - now thousands of wildlife returned to the area
After decades of hard and sometimes exhausting work, award-winning photographer Sebastiao Salgado wanted to return to live in his family's area in Minas Grace, Brazil. But when he and his wife got there, the ground looked completely devastated.
The green landscape that dominated the area when he was a child was replaced by brown soil and felled forests.
"The ground was sick just as I was - everything was ruined", Salgado said. "About 0.5% of the area was with trees".
Salgado's wife, Leila Delois Salgado, suggested they replant the forest.
To some it might have sounded like a crazy idea, but the Brazilian photographer, who just returned home from a mission in Rwanda, agreed. The couple planted acres upon acres of trees.
Towards the end of the 90's, the husband and his wife formed a team and together they founded Instituto Terra, and with the help of a local forest engineer and about 24 volunteers, the Salgado couple planted the first trees in 1999.
They planted the young trees at a distance of about 3 meters from each other on the entire area that covers 7100 acres.
Their plan was to plant additional trees and plants that would not only provide shelter for the birds and insects they hoped would return to the area, but to also revive and regenerate the soil.
Unfortunately things did not go according to plan and they lost about 60 percent of the trees.
"We tightened the pits too hard", Salgado said. "For weeks I felt sick - I could not see this devastation".
As the years went by, the Salgado couple learned the job and reduced the amount of trees that did not grow to about 10 percent.
Since the couple founded Instituto Terra in April 1998, they have replanted an entire forest of more than 2 million trees. In addition, they have seen the return of 30 species of mammals, 168 species of birds, and 15 species of reptiles.
A large part, 4257 acres, of the couple's area has been declared a nature reserve, and is used to teach and educate people about the environment.
"We need to listen to the words of the people on earth", Salgado said. "Nature is the world and it is other beings, and if we do not return our soul to our planet, I fear we will be in danger".
The project has inspired millions of people and is a wonderful example of positive ecological action.
"We may have a solution. There is one thing that can turn CO2 into oxygen, and that is the tree. We need to replant the forests", Salgado said.
"You need forests with local trees, and you have to collect the seeds in the same area where you plant them or the snakes and termites will not come. And if you plant trees that do not belong, the animals will not come back and the forest will remain still".
With the help of 24 workers, Sebastiao Salgado and Leila Delois Salgado planted an entire forest within 20 years.
Not only were they responsible for the establishment of part of the Atlantic forest in Brazil, they also helped bring back more than 200 species of animals to the region.
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