According to officials, Ethiopia might set the new world record, by planting about 350 million trees in a single day.
The tree-planting campaign is a part of a national initiative that plans the planting of four billion trees throughout the country in summer 2019. The goal is to prevent further deforestation and climate change in a country prone to drought.
Each citizen has been encouraged to plant at least forty seedlings, and public offices even got days off so civil servants can participate.
The news was trumpeted on Twitter, where Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria, declared that the 350 million trees, or 353,633,660 seedlings, to be more specific, were planted in 12 hours.
According to officials, the planting spree surpassed the initial goal of 200 million trees planted in one day.
State-run media have urged members of the public to devote their efforts to planting and caring for the indigenous trees. Moreover, staff from foreign embassies in Ethiopia and international and regional organizations like the UN and African Union participated in the project as well.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched the ambitious Green Legacy Initiative in May, which aims to plant four billion trees across Ethiopia by October.
Some schools and government offices were closed for the occasion, and he stimulated fellow Ethiopians to “go out and make your mark”, just like he planted his own tree in the southern city of Arba Minch.
The achievement is record-breaking if proven, as the current record stands at fifty million trees planted in India back in 2016.
It is still uncertain if the Guinness World Records is monitoring Ethiopia’s mass planting scheme, but the prime minister’s office revealed that specially developed software is helping with the count.
Critics of the prime minister believe the campaign is just a distraction from domestic troubles, like internecine warfare and strife between ethnic groups that have driven about 2.5 million people from their homes.
According to the UN, since the early 1900s, Ethiopia’s forest coverage has precipitously declined from 35 percent of total land to barely 4% in the 2000s. The rapid deforestation in Ethiopia is attributed to its rapidly growing population and the need for more farmland, unsustainable forest use, and climate change.
WWF research reveals that deforestation is responsible for over 15% of global greenhouse gases. Carbon extracted from the atmosphere by forests is stored in the branches and trunks of trees, and after they are cut and burnt, the stored carbon is released back into the air.
Climate change has hugely affected Ethiopia’s largely agrarian population. Over-farming has led to land degradation and soil erosion, and warming temperatures leave farmers facing a constant threat of extreme weather events like droughts and flooding.
Therefore, the tree-planting initiative is believed to be able to improve the living conditions of local populations, boost progress towards social development, rebuild agricultural plots and rural economies, and ensure climate stability.
A new study published in the journal Science revealed that such initiatives are an effective means of reversing climate change. Planting about a billion trees around the world could eliminate two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and trap and store the emissions in a natural, affordable and politically non-controversial manner.