The dream of planting a forest in Brazil gave birth to the Instituto Terra.
This project is the
result of an ambitious initiative taken in the late 1990s by Lélia Deluiz
Wanick Salgado and Sebastião Salgado. Confronting environmental devastation in
and around a former cattle ranch bought from Sebastião Salgado’s family
near the town of Aimorés, in Brazil’s state of Minas Gerais, they decided to
return the property to its natural state of subtropical rainforest. They
recruited partners, raised funds and, in April 1998, they founded the Instituto
Terra, an environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development
of the Valley of the River Doce.
Since then, the couple’s
dream has already borne much fruit. Thanks to the work of the Instituto Terra,
which has now been declared a Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR), some
17,000 acres of deforested and badly eroded land in a broad stretch of the
Valley of the River Doce have undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. More than
four million seedlings of the multiple species native to Brazil's Atlantic
Forest have been raised in the institute’s own nursery. Those plants are now
reforesting what was long known as the Salgado family’s Fazenda Bulcão, or
Bulcão Farm, and are also contributing to similar environmental restoration
programs in surrounding areas.
Once in a state of
advanced natural degradation, this former cattle ranch has been transformed
into a fertile woodland, alive with flora and fauna which for millenniums had
made the Atlantic Forest one of the world’s most important repositories of
natural species. The experience shows that, with the return of vegetation,
water again flows from natural springs and Brazilian animal species at risk of
extinction have again found a safe refuge.
Founded in April 1998,
the Instituto Terra is a community non-profit non-governmental organization
that operates in the whole territory of the Valley of the River Doce between
the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. It is a region that for
centuries has suffered from rampant deforestation and uncontrolled exploitation
of natural resources, notably iron ore. The resulting droughts and severe land
erosion have also had a devastating impact on the living conditions of the
region’s rural population.
The institute has defined
its objectives as restoration of the ecosystem, production of Atlantic Forest
seedlings, environmental outreach programs, environmental education and applied
The Instituto Terra
manages the 1,754-acre Bulcão Farm, 1,502 acres of which have been declared a
Private Natural Heritage Reserve. It is the first such PNHR in a ravaged area
of the Atlantic Forest. Inspired by Bulcão Farm’s success as a pilot project,
in 2004 the state of Minas Gerais established the category of the Private
Reserve for Environmental Restoration (PRER) to encourage other private
property owners to follow suit.
With the reforestation of
the Bulcão Farm, where the first planting took place in December 1999, the
Instituto Terra is nearing completion of recovery of a single uninterrupted
section of the Atlantic Forest. This is an unprecedented achievement in modern