After renowned photojournalist Sebastião Salgado came back from covering the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, he was unhappy to see the deforested farmland he owned in the state of Minas Gerais, 70 miles inland from Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The Atlantic forest as a whole had shrunk to less than 10% of its original size, and only 0.5% of Minas Gerais was covered in forest.
After his parents gave him the farmland, Salgado founded Instituto Terra in 1998, with the motive to recover 1,502 acres of rainforest. He started planting seeds of native trees to attract wildlife and sowed over 2 million seedlings of 290 species. He and his wife hired some two-dozen workers, who attacked the invasive African grasses by hand and with metal tools. They secured a donation of 100,000 seedlings and also went to governments and foundations worldwide to secure funds. This first phase would provide shade, trap moisture, give shelter to birds and insects—and help heal the soil by restoring depleted nitrogen.
The replanting process stopped soil erosion and replenished water resources in Salgado’s farm. 172 bird species, 33 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, amphibians and 293 species of plants have returned, some of them being endangered.
According to Salgado, the only solution to climate change is planting more trees!