After spending several traumatic years in Rwanda, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado was looking forward to going back to his home in Minas Gerais, Brazil to finally find solace and ‘recharge’ himself in the lap of a lush green forest.
Sebastião was assigned to cover the accounts of genocide in Rwanda, and this experience had left him traumatized.
In 1994, the photographer returned home only to find out that his beautiful hometown already become an arid, barren land after the lush forest underwent rampant deforestation and most of the trees have been cut down.
He felt more devastated after seeing that everything was almost destroyed.
“The land was as sick as I was. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees,” he said.
“Then my wife [Lélia] had a fabulous idea to replant this forest. And when we began to do that, then all the insects and birds and fish returned and, thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment,” he added.
Sebastião’s wife, Lélia, wished to replant the entire forest. He agreed to her idea, and together they worked hand in hand to make this nearly-impossible mission.
The couple set up Instituto Terra in 1988, an organization that tirelessly worked around the clock to bring the forest back to life. They build a network of enthusiastic partners and volunteers to help them sustain and fund their project.
Since then, they have planted over 2.7 million saplings of 293 species of trees and rejuvenated around 1,502 acres of the lost tropical forest and transformed the whole environment.
In addition, there was also an estimated 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles and 15 species of amphibians who have returned to the restored forest.
“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,” Sebastião explained.