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Since the year 2000, a Brazilian couple have been working non-stop planting trees to return the land they once knew to it's former beauty.

It took nearly 20 years and more than 2 million seeds but their work is finally done.


After documenting the horrors of the Rwandan genocide 25 years ago, renowned Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado returned home looking to find peace, but the lush and vibrant land he remembered was a shadow of its former self.

His family's cattle ranch, which was once surrounded by a sprawling rainforest in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil was now a barren wasteland.

"The land was as sick as I was." Salgado told The Guardian.

Less than 1 percent of the land was still covered in trees and all wildlife had long since left it behind.

The home Sebastião knew was gone, but his wife Lélia wasn't going to give up and somehow convinced Salgado that together they could replant the entire forest.

20 years later their dream finally came true:

Instituto Terra - Institutional Video [English Subtitles] www.youtube.com


To achieve their ambitious goal of replanting the forest the couple established the Instituto Terra, an "environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce."

Over the next two decades the Salgados and volunteers from the institute rejuvenated the land from an arid waste back into a blooming oasis spanning 1,754 acres.





Thanks to the Salgados and the dedicated volunteers of the Instituto Terra the land now bursts with life.

In the surrounding areas dried-up springs have been replenished and local temperatures have even dropped.

Perhaps the biggest change though was the the return of the wildlife.


172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles once again call the River Doce valley home.













The land underwent such a drastic transformation most couldn't believe it was the same place.





And for many the heroic efforts of the Salgados and Instituto Terra were an inspiration.





After restoring the land the Salgados converted the area to a private natural heritage reserve to protect the life that now fills it and let others enjoy the natural beauty.

But as Sebastião points out it wasn't only the land that was brought back to life.

"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."

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