Millions of people across Ethiopia planted more than 353 million trees in one day as part of a reforestation campaign.
The campaign, spearheaded by the country’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed, is believed to have broken a world record, planting around 150 million trees in six hours, and more than 350 million in 12 hours.
Citizens of Ethiopia, Africa’s second most heavily populated country after Nigeria, were encouraged to take part in the initiative, hoping to beat the previous record, set by India, of 66 million trees planted by around 1.5 million volunteers in 12 hours.
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) July 29, 2019
The campaign doesn’t stop there however, as the country’s goal is to carry on planting trees during ‘the rainy season’ between May and October, with an end goal of around 4 billion trees planted, according to CNN.
The campaign is an effort to combat the effects of climate change and deforestation in the drought-prone country. According to the UN, Ethiopia’s forest coverage has declined from 35 per cent of all land in the early 20th Century, to around 4 per cent in the 2000s, as BBC News reports.
Around 80 per cent of Ethiopia’s population depends on agriculture as a livelihood, however agricultural land is suffering due to soil erosion, drought and deforestation.
— Dr.-Ing. Getahun Mekuria (@DrGetahun) July 29, 2019
Recent studies have shown reforestation to be one of the most effective and cheapest methods to tackle climate change, with scientists calling the potential effects of reforestation on the Earth ‘mind-blowing’.
Research suggests a worldwide tree-planting programme could remove two-thirds of all carbon emissions released into the atmosphere by human activities.
In 2017, Ethiopia and more than 20 other nations in Africa pledged to restore 100 million hectares of land, as part of a campaign called the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative.
— Amir Aman, MD (@amirabiy) July 29, 2019
The country’s tree-planting drive took place across 1,000 sites, where officials where assigned to count the number of seedlings planted by volunteers. Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted to say more than 350 million had been planted within 12 hours.
The initiative is seeking to encourage every citizen to plant at least 40 seedlings over the summer. With such a nationwide campaign, some public offices were reportedly closed for the day so civil servants could take part, The Guardian reports.
While many people have rightly praised the reforestation efforts, critics of the Ethiopian prime minister suggest he is using it to distract the public from other issues in the country, such as recent conflicts that have reportedly forced more than two million people from their homes, and clashes between security forces and activists in the country’s Sidama region.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.