New app developed in Rwanda to improve monitoring and nurturing newly planted trees

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Rwandan citizens can now tell the status of their newly planted trees from anywhere via their phones thanks to a newly developed application technology that improve monitoring and further help in nurturing the trees.

The new technology “Eco Forest App” developed by ISARO Econext, a social interactive platform engaging individuals and organizations to take measurable climate actions is actually an improvement from a previous one which used QR Code Scanner placed on trees.

According to Amudala Museme, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at ISARO Econext, the earlier tree monitoring technology was first introduced and applied in 2022 after years of research and hard work, however, it showed some shortcomings of children removing the QR Code from the marked trees hence the need for an improved version.

“The removal of the QR Code from the marked trees made it difficult to track the trees and their growth,” said Museme.

On his part, Christian Niyigena Gasaro, the Founder of Isaro Econext said that the new app will actually improve the monitoring of newly planted trees which will be done between the citizen, the green agent, the organization that donated the tree, and the satellite technology.

“We have realised that about 30 per cent of newly planted trees die or get damaged thus a need for innovative tech-driven initiatives to respond to the challenge that can negative impact on the intended goals of planting trees in Rwanda,” said Niyigena.

Last week, ISARO Econext in collaboration with Roots & Shoots Rwanda, a project aimed at strengthening climate resilience in rural community launched a fresh community awareness and tree planting campaign, an event which saw the app demonstrated to citizens with residents of Kamonyi District benefiting from the opportunity.

400 trees were planted to reach 1,700 trees which are currently monitored by the tech.

Positive impact on forest cover

The anticipated utilization and expansion of this technology are poised to contribute significantly to the nation’s objectives of augmenting forest cover and fulfilling its pledge to restore two million hectares of land by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge.

Rwanda, boasting a 30.4% forest cover, annually engages in mass tree planting activities, epitomizing their collective aspiration to sustain and enhance forest coverage while boosting productivity.

For example, starting from the previous year, Rwanda aimed to plant 63 million seedlings between October 2023 and February 2024, guided by the theme: “Healthy Forests, Healthy Planet.”

“With the implementation of this new technology, we can minimize the loss of trees that are planted but not adequately monitored. This outcome will be advantageous for citizens, organizations, and will ultimately help achieve the overarching objectives of environmental protection,” said Niyigena.

The app accessibility

The application is accessible on smartphones for data entry and monitoring purposes. Citizens can also utilize a USSD phone by dialing 80111# to report tree-related issues or request assistance. This allows them to engage with the application system and seek support from personnel on the ground.

Niyigena clarified that to ensure the effectiveness of trained green agents, they must monitor the growth of newly planted trees every two weeks and submit update reports through the application system. This accountability measure helps prevent them from evading their responsibilities.

Furthermore, he disclosed that the application offers the opportunity to obtain a zero-interest grant for trees, facilitating citizens in planting income-generating and fruit-bearing trees. To date, over 30,000 trees have been acquired through this loan program.

Clėmence Idukunda, the National Coordinator for Roots & Shoots Rwanda, said the integration of technology signifies a more comprehensive follow-up process and anticipated benefits within the targeted communities.

“We aim to expand the tech-monitored tree count to 3,000 this year, as we are confident they will thrive and make a meaningful impact,” Idukunda remarked.

Assisted by Noble Women’s Initiative, Roots & Shoots Rwanda, and ISARO Econext, trees were distributed to an environmental club at GS JMV Muganza for students to plant.