Ethiopians dug in to help plant more than 200 million trees in the climate change-ravaged country Monday, breaking the previous world record. "Today, Ethiopia is set in our attempt to break the world record together for a #GreenLegacy," Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office tweeted earlier in the day.
More than 224 million saplings had already been planted by the afternoon, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported, beating the previous world record held by India. Some schools and government offices were closed for the occasion and the prime minister told fellow Ethiopians to "go out and make your mark," as he planted his own tree in the southern city of Arba Minch.
Abiy's Green Legacy initiative, launched in May, aims to plant a total of 4 billion trees by year's end. Ethiopia's rapidly growing population and lack of arable land pose a problem for the impoverished east African nation. Studies show the country's forest cover at the onset of the 19th Century accounted for 420,000 square kilometers, 35% of the country's land area, which has now dwindled to under 10%.
"In recent years environment has become a key issue in Ethiopia," the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) said on their website. "The main environmental problems in the country include land degradation, soil erosion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, desertification, recurrent drought, floods and water and air pollution."
In a show of solidarity to Ethiopia's efforts, Turkish Embassy diplomats and staff in Addis Ababa also planted trees. Evren Müderrisoğlu, deputy head of mission at the embassy, said: "We are very happy to participate in this campaign. It is a green legacy program and today we planted African Tulip, Lebanon Cedar and Jacaranda and rose trees."