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Agency banks on drones to reduce deforestation

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A drone flies over a wheat field to spray insecticide at a farm in China. KFS plans to use drones for surveillance in areas under deforestation and degradation pressure. FILE PHOTO | YAN ZHIJIANG

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Summary

  • KFS chief conservator Julius Kamau said the agency has conducted a successful pilot study in Karura and Ndunduri forests paving the way for the use of drones to help in identifying changes in specific points of forest cover.
  • The drones will be used in areas under deforestation and degradation pressure, which are only observable with high resolution spatial images.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will now use drones as a new weapon to monitor deforestation in gazetted forests as thousands of hectares disappear every year in some of the country’s most biodiverse forests, the agency has said.

KFS chief conservator Julius Kamau said the agency has conducted a successful pilot study in Karura and Ndunduri forests paving the way for the use of drones to help in identifying changes in specific points of forest cover.

"We believe that technology is one of the tools that we can use to complement the human capability that we have as KFS. We have an Airwing so we have an air capability including a chopper and a caravan. But we believe use of drones is the way to go," he said.

Mr Kamau said the agency is expected to field its first specialised surveillance drone procured at a cost of between Sh5 to Sh10 million from next year after getting necessary approvals from the aviation regulator.

The drones will be used in areas under deforestation and degradation pressure, which are only observable with high resolution spatial images, said Mr Kamau.

He added real time images from affected areas will enable KFS to activate ground intervention in a bid to detect and prevent land grabbers and illegal loggers.

The government renewed push for preservation of the protected forests which has been financially backed by various United Nations agencies such as the UNDP is seen as vital to slow global warming, as trees absorb carbon dioxide - the main heat-trapping gas - from the air and store the carbon until they are cut down and burned, or rot.

Drone use across Kenya is likely to become more widespread as legal hurdles and legislation are overcome.