A Kenyan, an Indian and an American startup are bringing back the tree covers
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Wildfires in Australia and California, clearing out of forests for soy plantation in Brazil and illegal logging operations across the world for paper and wood- all of them have contributed to deforestation in the recent past.
Home to earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, forests provide livelihoods, mitigate climate change and play a key role in sustainable food production.
Although the rate of deforestation has come down in the last 5 years, we are still losing 10 million hectares per year.
Let’s see how 3 startups- DroneSeed, Afforestt and Komaza are building innovative solutions to fight deforestation ⬇️
Rapid reforestation after wildfires
Reforestation is tedious and dangerous…A common reforestation technique after forest fires involves human planters manually placing seedlings in the affected area. For them to plant these, the seedlings should be readily available in the nurseries. As forest fires are unpredictable, nurseries can’t keep up with the demand. The shortage of seedlings causes a delay in reforestation, allowing weeds to take over the burnt area. Helicopters are used to spray herbicides to kill these weeds but as they need to fly at low altitudes, they face the risk of running into trees.
Modernizing reforestation through drones…Seattle based DroneSeed uses its fleet of drones(drone swarms) to replace the traditional reforestation method. Flying in a group of 5 on a pre-planned route, these drones blast ‘seed vessels’(proprietary mix of seeds and other essentials) into the ground at 350 feet/sec. These drone swarms can cover ~50 acres in a day vs ~2 acres by human planters. DroneSeed is the first company that is FAA approved in the US to operate with heavy-lift drone swarms.
Aerial seeding has existed for a few years but…As every landscape differs in shape and size, before dropping the seed vessels, DroneSeed uses advanced laser mapping to map suitable areas where seeds have a higher chance of growing. The 3D map created through this technique also helps in identifying the areas where herbicides have to be sprayed(also done by the drone) to kill the weeds. Having a targeted approach for herbicide spraying prevents indiscriminate use(lower costs and environment friendly)
Bringing back our lost indigenous forests
Concrete jungles…Green areas in the city help fight climate change and improve people’s lives. With rapid urbanization, cities are quickly losing green spaces as they are being used to construct houses, offices and commercial buildings. The reducing green spaces degrade the quality of the land, cause flooding and result in poor air quality. The dark grey asphalt in the city also causes a lot of heat absorption. In fact, according to a study, the densest areas in the city are the hottest ones.
Creating urban forests… In 2019, the UN announced plans to create urban forests in cities in Africa and Asia to improve air quality, cut the risk of floods and heatwaves, and halt land degradation. India-based Afforestt is creating urban forests using the Miyawaki method(named after Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki)- planting around 300 native trees in a 1,000 sq ft area to make a dense, self-sustaining grove. They have successfully created ~150 forests across 44 cities in 10 countries.
There’s a process to it… The process starts with soil testing and treating the ground for any nutrient deficiencies. The key to the process is planting native, indigenous trees across four categories: shrub, sub-tree, tree and canopy. In 2-3 years, the plantation becomes a self-sustaining forest attracting birds and insects- an indicator of a healthy forest. If you are interested in creating your own forest, check out their guide.
Helping local communities while fighting deforestation
Africa’s wood crisis…Forests in Africa cover around 35% of the land. The Congo Basin in the continent is in fact the world’s second-largest rainforest. But with a growing population and an expanding economy, the demand for wood in Africa is expected to triple by 2050. The charcoal and fuelwood industry is responsible for 90% of the wood consumption. This increased demand would lead to overexploitation of resources and increased deforestation.
Microforestry model…Kenya-based Komaza is bringing together small scale farmers to solve Africa’s wood crisis. While these farmers have land(that is mostly sitting empty) and labour available with them to plant trees, they don’t have the knowledge and support to do so. These farmers dedicate 1 acre of their farms to grow trees. Komaza provides them with the planting inputs, training and support to grow the trees and a guaranteed market for wood products after the trees are harvested. While the farmers own the land, Komaza manages the entire process from growing the seedlings to selling the wood in the market. (Airbnb For African Forests)
From surviving to thriving…Komaza’s operational headquarters are in Kilifi, Kenya, where 56% of farmers live in extreme poverty and nearly 1/3rd of children are severely malnourished. The company estimates that a family with a 1/2 hectare of eucalyptus and 1 hectare of melia can earn 40% more income in the first decade, followed by 250% more income in the second decade. This is a significant income for farmers who survive on subsistence crops grown on their land. Planting trees also builds soil fertility, helping farmers to grow more food crops on their land.
🔍Two truths and a lie
Can you figure out which 2 statements are true(and scary) about deforestation?
Forests have to be cut down to make palm oil that is used in everything from shampoos to biscuits.
Around 5% of the Amazon rainforest, a large tropical rainforest in South America, has been lost in the last 50 years.
80% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests and deforestation threatens their existence.
Just hit reply and send in your response, or you can comment below.
⏮️ From the last edition
🔖 In the last edition, I wrote about the problem of Fast Fashion. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, here it is.
💻 Planning to stay home this weekend? You might want to watch The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion.
A few days ago, a friend commented on my LinkedIn post with an article on Delhi’s unsung recyclers. In my childhood, I vividly remember how my parents used to exchange clothes for new stainless steel utensils. I recently realized how these clothes were given a second chance by being resold across villages in India. Although the system is struggling these days, it’s still a beautiful story of sustainability.
If you have any stories around sustainability, just hit reply and send them to me. I will feature it in the upcoming editions🙂
🙏 I would love to get some feedback. What do you think about this edition?
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