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Drone technology to help in forest conservation

As the Country makes efforts to redeem lost forest cover as a result of adverse effects of climate change, use of drones to plant trees may be the game changer and soon be part of a forester’s toolkit.

The use of the drone technology in reforestation as an initiative is being looked for and tested through environmental champions, agribusiness-oriented organisations, and the government in conservation efforts, to increase the country’s forest cover and improve the agriculture sector.

Patricia Icharait and Dzoga Ndege from Ecowings are training young people how to operate drones and how they can be used for tree seeds planting.

Through this technology, they seek to regenerate ecological diversity by seeding indigenous tree species as well as grass in pastoral areas and where forests have been destroyed.

The idea, they say is to use this technology to plant seed balls and have this technology augment the other ways that tree planting is currently being done.

They spoke at Lariak Forest in Laikipia County where they were demonstrating how drones can be used to increase the forest cover.

“The idea is to use a seeding mechanism that holds seed balls which can be dropped in any way. In this case, we are using a drone because of its advantage of getting to places ordinarily hard to reach,” said Icharait.

In a bid to attain the 10 percent forest cover by 2030 and reduce global warming, the government is taking up every option including technology.

Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Ms. Soipan Tuya has said the government is ready to embrace such technology and innovations in the protection and conservation of existing forests.

She said such innovations would save a lot of resources and time spent in management, monitoring and surveillance of forest areas.

Research has shown that aerial seeding and drone technology is one of the ways that are cost-effective and will cover the country within a short period.

These specialised drones are fitted with seed dispensers that easily drop seed balls with precision.

This allows the team to get into trickier areas where human planters would not be able to enter.

Seed ball is a technology where charcoal dust is processed into small balls and seeds (certified by KARI) of various indigenous tree species put inside the balls. The coating protects the seeds from predators and harsh weather conditions.

The seed balls can be dispersed anywhere and, with time, when the conditions are right the seeds begin to germinate.

The drones are specialised to dispense the seeds in mapped areas with ease, faster and more cost-effective compared to other methods.

Drones complement helicopters and light-wing wing aero planes that can also be used for mass distribution.

By Antony Mwangi

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