In 1997 the Kazakh president launched a plan to protect his new capital from the icy winds of the featureless steppes with a ring of trees. Twenty years on, his scientists are still struggling to grow forests in a spot where no trees stood.
Since we're talking about growing trees in harsh places. In the article you posted mk, it talked about students traveling to Iceland to learn about contemporary desertification. It would be interesting to see if people around the world, struggling to reforest places, are exchanging ideas, techniques, and data. There's a similar article I read a while back, about a man somewhere in Asia, who planted a whole forest himself, tree by tree. I'll see if I can find that and share it too.
Edit: Here's a whole list of projects