On Saturday, Ecuadoreans will participate in what could be the largest single reforestation effort in history.
Some 35,000 Ecuadoreans have volunteered to plant over 350,000 tree seeds on May 16. If even half that many follow through, it will still beat the current record-holder, Turkey, which organized a mass planting in Mersin Tevifk Sirri in 2009 that drew 10,624 participants to the Tema Mersin City stadium.
“The record is not based on time; it is not based on seeds, but in the amount of people participating,” Carlos Martinez, the director of the Latin-American branch of Guinness World Records, told ANDES. “The new thing we establish for Ecuador, to make it more inclusive and at a national level, is that we will allow this record to be done in multiple places at the same time.”
Though undoubtedly a PR stunt, according to Environment Minister Lorena Tapia, it’s PR with a message.
“Ecuador is sending a historic message,” said Tapia. “It is showing the world that Ecuador is committed to the protection of the environment. It is also an invitation for citizens to act positively towards protecting the environment.”
The mass planting follows an impressive reduction in deforestation that began with the election of President Rafael Correa in 2008. Though Correa’s “green credentials” have been questioned over the years, the government has implemented a series of initiatives to reduce its deforestation rates, even partnering with the UN-REDD Programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) in 2009.
According to Telesur, the government has invested $74 million in reforestation projects since 2008 with the aim of eventually reaching “zero deforestation.” The initiative appears to be making progress, as the Independent recently reported that, since 2012, deforestation in the country has dropped from 92,000 acres per year to 47,000.
“Behind this [reforestation day] is also a governmental policy that has been going on for years,” said Tapia. “There is an objective of reforestation to recover 50,000 acres by 2017.”