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How Artificial Intelligence is being used to grow trees in Kenya

In a groundbreaking move announced at COP28, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is set to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its AZ Forest programme, enhancing its reforestation efforts in Kenya.

The initiative aims to plant up to six million trees in the western region, leveraging cutting-edge technology to monitor tree health, promote biodiversity, and bolster the economic well-being of local communities.

AstraZeneca’s AZ Forest Africa, an integral part of the broader commitment to plant and maintain over 200 million trees globally by 2030, signifies the company’s dedication to the intersection of human and planetary health.

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The reforestation project in Kenya will span six counties in the western part of the country, covering an extensive area of more than 3,500 hectares adjacent to the Rift Valley.

The innovative aspect of the project lies in its utilization of an advanced AI deep learning model, which will analyze drone footage and satellite imagery to monitor tree growth, health, and carbon sequestration levels.

This AI-driven approach marks a significant step forward in reforestation strategies, allowing for more precise monitoring and, consequently, a more effective and sustainable environmental impact.

Juliette White, Vice President Global Sustainability at AstraZeneca, emphasized the interconnectedness of planetary and human health.

She stated, “Investing in our natural world through tree planting and conservation, and limiting deforestation, are some of the most effective preventative health steps we can take.” The company aims to deliver reforestation on a large scale, integrating a science-led approach that benefits both the environment and local communities.

AstraZeneca is collaborating with prominent organizations such as Earthbanc and the Green Planet Initiative 2050 Foundation (GPI2050) to design and implement the AZ Forest programme in Kenya.

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Indigenous and productive tree species will be planted to enhance soil health and local crop yields, fostering a circular bioeconomy. Additionally, more than 5,000 local farmers and community members will be engaged, with the project aligning with the Kenyan government’s ambitious goal to plant 15 billion trees over the next decade.

Her Excellency Rachel Ruto, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, welcomed AstraZeneca’s approach, emphasizing the importance of collaborative action in addressing climate change.

Tom Duncan, CEO of Earthbanc, expressed enthusiasm for supporting the project, highlighting its potential to accelerate reforestation efforts and contribute to global climate goals.

Beyond Kenya, AstraZeneca’s global AZ Forest programme continues to make strides.

In Ghana, almost three million trees have been planted in 2023, building on the success of the project that began in 2021. In Rwanda, 6,000 farming households are part of the initiative, aiming to plant around 5.8 million trees across 21,000 hectares, making it one of the largest forest restoration initiatives in the country.

The AZ Forest programme showcases AstraZeneca’s commitment to driving positive environmental change through innovative and sustainable practices.