Like many parts of the world, Ethiopia has seen rapid deforestation over the past century. Forest coverage in the east African nation has dropped from approximately 35 percent in the early 1900s to just 4 percent in the 2000s. Ethiopians have made significant strides toward improving those numbers by planting 350 million trees in one day, which Ethiopian officials believe is a new world record, the BBC reports.
On July 29, volunteers from across the country got together with the goal of sowing 200 million seedlings before the day's end. Certain public offices were closed Monday so government employees could participate. Representatives from the United Nations, the African Union, and foreign embassies in Ethiopia took part in the project.
After 12 hours, officials in charge of counting the seedlings confirmed that the planters had exceeded their initial goal: The country ended up planting 350 million trees on Monday, breaking the previous record of 66 million set by 1.5 million volunteers in India in 2017.
The initiative was part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Green Legacy campaign, which aims to plant a total of 4 billion native trees in Ethiopia between May and October. On a local scale, the trees will improve soil quality and reduce the impact of flooding in the erosion-prone country. The benefits of the new trees also extend beyond the nation's borders. A single tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and sequester 1 ton of the greenhouse gas by the time it's 40 years old. According to a recent study in Science, by restoring 90 million square miles of the world's forests, we could stop roughly 226 billion tons of carbon from becoming trapped in the Earth's atmosphere and warming the planet.