In the early 2000s, famed Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Wanick decided to rebuild their deserted piece of land of 600 hectares in Aimorés, Brazil. They planted more than 2 million tree saplings in 18 years.

And the result is amazing! They created a new forest, and now, the site has 293 plant species, 172 bird species, and 33 animal species, some of which were on the verge of extinction.

Once upon a time, there was water and many fish in the area. But, by the early 1990s, there was nothing left. It was all over. The area became a desert, basically.

It all started in 1994 when Sebastião Salgado had just returned home from Rwanda. In the early 1990s, he was stationed in Rwanda to cover the horrific accounts of the Rwanda genocide. The on-ground experience left him traumatized.

The couple acquired the land (now an abandoned cattle ranch) that had belonged to Sebastião’s parents.

Sebastião returned to Brazil with a heavy heart, hoping to find solace in the lap of a lush green forest, where he had grown up.

But, instead, he found a dusty, barren land for miles and miles, in place of the forest. In only a few years, his beautiful hometown underwent rampant deforestation, leaving it fallow and devoid of all the wildlife.

Instituto Terra before forestation
Upon returning to his homeland, Sebastião Salgado found a dusty, barren land for miles and miles, in place of the forest.

They decided to replant the forest.

They sowed the first seed in December 1999. In 18 years, the couple planted 2,700,000 trees, with the help of hired workers.

As the trees began flourishing, the animals have begun to return the land.

Today, the area now holds official status as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve. It is home to an estimated 293 species of trees, 172 species of birds, 33 types of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles, many of which are endangered.

Salgados created the Instituto Terra. The institute is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation, and environmental education. Since 2001, more than 17,000 people have studied there.

Instituto Terra Forest
Salgados recreated the forest. It is now home to an estimated 293 species of trees, 172 species of birds, 33 types of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles, many of which are endangered.
Instituto Terra – Institutional Video

Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia
Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Wanick

Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Júnior (born February 8, 1944) is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist, and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

He has traveled in over 120 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these have appeared in numerous press publications and books. Touring exhibitions of his work have been presented throughout the world.

He was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant in 1982, Foreign Honorary Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992 and the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in 1993. Since April 2016 he is a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts at the Institut de France.

Salgado and his work are the focus of the film The Salt of the Earth (2014), directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. The film won a special award at Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards.

The Salt of the Earth – Official Trailer. For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been traveling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvations and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of the wild fauna and flora, of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty. Sebastião Salgado’s life and work are revealed to us by his son, Juliano, who went with him during his last travels, and by Wim Wenders, a photographer himself. Running Time: 105 mins. Directed by: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders.


  • “Brazilian Couple Created 1,502-Acre Forest In 20 Years, Which Houses 500+ Endangered Plant & Animal Species” on Science Insanity website
  • “Famed Photographer Sebastião Salgado Plants Two Million Trees With His Wife And 20 Years Later, Creates New Forest” on
  • Sebastião Salgado on Wikipedia
  • Instituto Terra official website
M. Özgür Nevres

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.