Our planet is home to an uncountable number of lifeforms all of which depend on a healthy, delicate balance to survive. The forests and trees form an integral part of our biosphere. In a 2016 study by Stanford University, the researchers found that adding a single tree to a pasture could increase the number of bird species seen in that area from zero to 80. Though the rampant deforestation over the past centuries has been tipping the balance against us, there are those who are making significant efforts at afforestation to turn the planet green once more.
1. After buying some land in 1991, a couple spent 26 years planting a rainforest in India. Now the forest is spread over 300 acres and home to more than 200 globally endangered species of plants and animals including Asian elephants and Bengal tigers.
More than two decades ago, Dr. A.K. Malhotra and his wife Pamela decided to buy some land and establish a wildlife sanctuary. Though at first they wanted to do it near the Himalayas, the land ownership laws in north India had a limit of 12 acres. So, they moved south and bought 55 acres of farmland in Kodagu District of the south Indian state Karnataka that was abandoned due to lack of rainfall.
With time, the Malhotras began to buy more and more unused farmland, finally making a total of 300 acres, which also helped the farmers repay their debts. The initiative is named SAI (Save Animals Initiative) Sanctuary Trust. They encouraged the growth of already existing trees and planted more native species around them.
Gradually, the wildlife increased and the river that flowed through the land became replenished with several species of fish. Over 305 species of birds visit the forest each year. The couple also planted several cardamom and coffee plants that they farm organically. In 2014, SAI won the Wildlife and Tourism Initiative of the Year Award for eco-tourism that protects forests and wildlife. (1, 2)
2. As part of the reforestation effort, every year Cape Verde plants three million trees including oak, sweet chestnut, acacia, and pine, at the rate of 7,000 trees per day.
The Republic of Cape Verde is an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands and three islets located in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Africa. Owing to its isolation from any of the continents, the group of islands has a very unique variety of endemic species of plants and animals. The islands are also one of the top ten coral reef biodiversity hotspots in the world. However, while developing the country, several forest lands were converted to agricultural lands. This and the introduction of several hundreds of new plants and trees over the past 500 years caused a depletion of native species.
3. Since 1978, China has planted over a 500,000 square kilometers of forest to fight increasing desertification. It is expected to reach a length of 4,500 kilometers by 2050 and is the largest artificially planted forest in the world.
In the past, China has experienced the disappearance of grasslands and the formation of desserts at the rate of 3,600 square kilometers per year. As much as 2,000 square kilometers of topsoil is blown away during dust storms affecting not just China but also North Korea, South Korea, and Japan every year. So in 1978, the Great Wall Project was proposed in order to counteract the increasing desertification of the country by raising the forest cover from 5% to 15%.
Also known as the Three-North Shelter Forest Program, the project has seen the planting of 500,000 square kilometers of forest – the world’s largest artificial forest. The method used is aerial seeding over wide areas of land that are less arid and offering local farmers financial incentives to plant in areas that are more arid.
The program, however, has also been criticized for a lack of diversity in the types of trees that are being planted as it makes them more susceptible to disease. In 2000, over a billion trees were lost due to disease, and in 2008, 10% of the new forest stock was destroyed during winter storms leading the World Bank to advise the government to focus on quality rather than quantity. (source)
4. Whenever a girl is born in the Rajasthani village of Piplantri, the villagers plant 111 trees, so far amounting to as many as 250,000 trees, and ensure their survival over the years.
The initiative was started in 2006 by the former sarpanch (elected village head) Shyam Sundar Paliwal who lost his daughter a few years earlier. The villagers of Piplantri plant several native trees including neem (Indian lilac), sheesham (North Indian rosewood), mango, and amla (Indian gooseberry). In total, they have so far planted 300,000 trees in the grazing commons.
In addition to the trees, the villagers planted more than 2.5 million aloe vera plants to repel termites from fruit-bearing trees. With the increase in demand for aloe vera products, the villagers now have a new source of income as they now manufacture and market their own aloe vera juice, gel, and other related products. (source)
5. For over 18 years, two friends – a blind man and a double-arm amputee – from the village of Yeli in northern China have been planting trees together. As of 2015, they planted over 10,000 healthy trees.
Jia Haixia was born blind because of a cataract in his left eye and lost his right eye when a stone fragment flew into it while he was working at a factory in 2000. Jia Wenqi lost both his arms after receiving a high voltage shock when he grabbed an unprotected electric cable when he was three. They both went to the same school. After graduating in 1976, the village officials of Hebei Province, China, organized work for Wenqi as a gardener with the local forestry team.
After Haixia’s accident, he started working along with Wenqi for the local government to reforest the village. Though the villagers were at first skeptical of their endeavor, they began getting the two friends saplings and often lending a hand after realizing how greener the previously bare river bank became. (source)