Photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned home from documenting the Rwandan genocide in East Africa 30 years ago only to encounter another tragedy.
When he got back to his family’s cattle ranch in an area of Brazil called Minas Gerais, he found that the former tropical paradise had been stripped of nearly all of its trees and the wildlife that formerly lived there had disappeared.
The region had long been known for being green, lush, and full of wildlife, but deforestation had taken its toll.
“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” he told The Guardian. “Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees.”
His wife Lelia was equally upset at what they found and suggested the couple set out to replant the forest.
This seemed impossible at first, but Salgado knew he had to do something big in order to save his beloved homeland.
In 1998, the couple set up an “environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce.” They named it Instituto Terra.
It took years of labor, dedication, and love to replant the entire 1,754-acre plot of land. But after the couple arranged for the planting of over 2 MILLION trees, the land slowly transformed back into a lush, green paradise.
The couple also arranged for the region to be designated as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve so that no more logging could take place in the area.
Now, the family cattle ranch is thriving again and hundreds of species of animals and plants that were forced out have slowly returned to the land.