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10 Most Successful Afforestation Efforts that Are Turning the Planet Green

6. Over the past two decades, a Brazilian couple planted 2.7 million trees of 293 species and reforested 1,500 acres of the Atlantic Forest. The rainforest is now home to over 172, bird, 33 mammals, 15 amphibians, and 15 reptile species. 

Salgado's Instituto Terra
Salgado’s Instituto Terra. Image Source: institutoterra

After becoming traumatized by the incidents in Rwanda, the Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned home to Minas Gerais in 1994 only to find the once lush, green forest turned into miles and miles of barren land. Then his wife Lélia proposed they replant the entire forest. They started with a cattle ranch they bought from his parents. By 1998, they founded Instituto Terra and built a network of like-minded volunteers and partners.

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Beginning in December 1999, they weeded the land and planted more than two million saplings belonging to 293 species of trees. They managed to reforest 1,502 acres of tropical forest which have even been declared a Private Natural Heritage Reserve due to its immense biodiversity. Their efforts helped control soil erosion, rejuvenated at least eight water springs that dried up, increased rainfall in the area, and shelters some of the endangered species of wildlife. (1, 2)

7.  In 1979, a 17-year-old young man named Jadav Payeng started planting trees on a barren sandbar near his village in northeast India. Forty years later, the land became a 1,360-acre forest with thousands of trees, home to tigers, rhinos, deers, apes, birds, and visited by 115 elephants each year. 

Jadav Payeng
Image credits: Bijit Dutta/Wikimedia, PhBasumata/Flickr

In 1979, at the age of 16, Payeng saw a large number of snakes that were washed up by a flood onto a bare sandbar where they dried up due to the heat. So, he planted 20 bamboo seedlings there. After that, he worked in a 200-hectare tree plantation project by the social forestry division of Golaghat District, Assam. When the project was completed five years later and all the workers left, he stayed to look after the trees and began planting more of them turning it into a forest.

The authorities did not know about his efforts until 2008 when they tracked a herd of 115 elephants to find, to their surprise, a large, dense forest. It has thousands of native trees and over 300 hectares of bamboo. The forest is home to much wildlife including Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, over 100 deer, rabbits, monkeys, and several birds including vultures. Payeng also protects the forest from poachers and in 2013, helped authorities catch a group of them who tried to get to the rhinos. (1, 2)

8. Every year, over 6,000 volunteers from around the world plant 500 million trees in Canada to replenish the forests that have been harvested for wood.

Volunteers of TreeCanada
Volunteers of TreeCanada. Image Source: TreeCanada/twitter

Over 90% of the forests in the country is owned by the public. In the mid-1980s, Canada realized the forest-harvest practices are not sustainable and passed laws requiring replanting every year. In British Columbia, for example, three seeds are planted for every harvested mature tree. Each year over 6,000 volunteers, usually between the ages of 19 and 26 from all over the world, come to Canada to participate in the replanting program and are paid 10 cents on the average per plant.

The species planted depends on the trees that existed in the area before harvest. Some of the regional plantings could include as many as 19 different species of trees such as white spruce, jack pine, hemlock, or Douglas fir. If there is a naturally existing monoculture area, that is a region with a single species, the area is replanted as such. On good days, skilled volunteers could plant as many as 7,000 trees per day and each year around half a billion trees are planted. (1, 2)

9. A coalition of African nations is making the Great Green Wall of several millions of trees spanning 5,000 miles across Africa to combat desertification. As of 2019 March, 15% of the wall is complete. 

Great Green Wall
Image credits: NASA

The Sahel is a wide strip of land along the width of North Africa marking Africa’s transition from Sahara desert to the Sudanian Savanna. Its semi-arid climate makes it perfect for the Great Green Wall Project, also known as the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel. The initiative, led by the African Union, aims to transform the land into by creating patches of green, productive landscapes to fight the effects of climate change and increasing desertification.

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According to Ecosia, a Berlin-based search engine that donates 80% of its revenue to NGOs focusing on reforestation, over five million trees were planted as of July 25, 2018, most of them in Burkina Faso. Over 11 million trees were planted in Senegal with 12 million acres of degraded land restored in Nigeria and 37 million acres reclaimed in Ethiopia. In total, as of March 2019, over 15% of the wall was completed due to the efforts in these three regions. (source)

10. After the successful “Billion Tree Tsunami” campaign between 2014 and 2017 to plant one billion trees, Pakistan launched another campaign in 2018 to plant 10 billion trees in the next five years. 

In 2014, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) launched the Billion Tree Tsunami Project in response to global warming. It was completed in August 2017, ahead of its schedule, and restored 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land. After becoming the prime minister in 2018, Imran Khan launched another planting project called “Plant for Pakistan” on the 3rd of September to plant 10 billion trees. Over 1.5 million trees were planted on the first day, and the project is to continue over the following five years. (1, 2)

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