A government-run initiative has seen the planting of more than 353 million trees in 12 hours on Monday in what the government says it was the largest one-day tree-planting effort in history.
The marathon of tree planting was part of a wider reforestation campaign named “Green Legacy,” spearheaded by the country’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Final day for preparations. Come out tomorrow #Ethiopia and #PlantYourPrint for a #GreenLegacy. Together we can demonstrate what we can do through unity and ownership. #PMOEthiopia pic.twitter.com/xC90zp2KKn
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) July 28, 2019
The campaign united millions of Ethiopians across the country as they were invited to take part in the challenge and get their hands dirty alongside Prime Minister Ahmed. Students, farmers, urban professionals, foreign dignitaries, environmentalists and government officials all got involved.
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) July 29, 2019
Schools and governments across the country were closed for the day as students and civil servants were urged to take part in the program, which was supported by several international aid groups.
Within the first six hours, Ahmed tweeted that around 150 million trees had been planted.
The national Green Legacy campaign aims to raise the public’s awareness of Ethiopia’s “frightening environmental degradation and educate society on the importance of adopting green behaviour.”
It also aims to reverse decades of deforestation when logging, land clearances and poorly defined property rights led to a dramatic decline in forest cover. According to research by Farm Africa, an organization working to restore the forests of East Africa, Ethiopia’s forested land was reduced from almost a third of the country at the turn of the 20th century, to less than 4% today.
The effects of climate change have hit Ethiopia’s largely agrarian population hard.
Around 80-85% Ethiopians are engaged in agriculture, mainly in subsistence and rain-fed farming and livestock production. Despite this, around 35% of the population doesn’t have enough nutritious food to eat.
Over-farming has caused land degradation and soil erosion while warming temperatures leave farmers facing a constant threat of extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding.
According to an important study by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology, ETH Zurich, about 900 million hectares of land worldwide — almost 3.5 million square miles, nearly the area of the United States — is not being used by people and could support forests.
The study says that, if trees were planted on all of that land, when they matured they could store about two-thirds of all the carbon that human activity has pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.
A total of 353,633,660 tree seedlings had been planted, Ethiopia’s minster for innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted.
353,633,660 Tree Seedlings Planted in 12 Hours. This is in #Ethiopians
— Dr.-Ing. Getahun Mekuria (@DrGetahun) July 29, 2019
While the numbers have not been verified, they far exceed the previous record held by the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which in 2016 planted more than 50 million trees in one day, according to Guinness World Records.
They form part of a wider goal for the country to plant four billion trees this year.