Kenyan Startup Introduces AI-Driven Solution to Combat Illegal Logging, Wildfires

Artificial Intelligence has invaded almost all industries and is proving to make work efficient in everything it touches. Environmental sustainability, climate action, and conservation as a whole are also not left behind in this bandwagon.

In an effort to reduce illegal logging and charcoal burning, Joseph Nguthiru and Sam Okemwa have come up with a solution that harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to protect the forest.

Through their innovation branded M-Situ, the two envision creating a sustainable and greener future.

How M-Situ works

The climate tech startup leverages AI as an early warning system for illegal logging, wildfires, and charcoal burning. Their pilot execution is currently being undertaken in Ngong Forest and has proven to be the future of forest conservation.

“Africa has lost 30% of its indigenous tree cover due to activities such as illegal logging and charcoal burning. That’s why we have a solution that integrates so well with nature,” Nguthiru says.

The innovation gadget has a solar panel that generates power from the sun to charge the whole device. Attached to it is a charge controller and battery to ensure the sensor box is active all through.

The sensor box contains all the sensors that are trained through machine learning to detect any kind of threats in the forest.

“We have trained the sensors to detect noises such as that of a power saw so that we can know if a tree is being cut in the forest,” the climate action advocate asserts.

He also points out that the device is also trained to detect threats such as wildfires and various kinds of gases.

In a situation where a threat is sensed, the signal is sent to Kenya Forest Service ranger’s phone as a text message to alert them of the impending danger.

The whole process is also integrated on a web panel where forest rangers can log in and visualize the data received by the sensors. It also gives the coverage inform of a map that shows the location of the sensors and where the threats are detected such as noise levels together with a percentage probability.

Nguthiru affirms that the innovation will help forest rangers to act faster on threats that are facing our forests.

Background on logging in Kenya

The government has been putting effort into regulating logging activities through policies such as the Kenya Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016. The Act governs logging and forest management by establishing a framework encompassing guiding procedures for obtaining logging licenses, designates areas for logging and conservation. It emphasizes the importance of conducting logging sustainably.

There have, however, been controversies surrounding illegal logging with various solutions being suggested.

Back in 2018, the Task Force on Forest Resources Management and Logging Activities recommended a ban. It was after a report stated that illegal logging of indigenous trees was a major threat to forests.

In June 2023, President William Ruto’s decision to lift the six-year logging ban sparked controversy, particularly among environmentalists who vehemently opposed the move.

Responding to concerns raised, the Law Society of Kenya took legal action, filing a case arguing that there had been insufficient public consultation prior to the ban being lifted. Consequently, the Environment and Land Court responded to the public outcry by issuing temporary orders to suspend the initial directive, effectively reinstating the logging ban.

Mr. Ogonji is a highly professional and talented journalist with a solid experience in covering compelling stories, reporting facts, and engaging audiences. He is driven to uncover the truth behind today's most pressing issues and share stories that make a genuine impact.

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