Drones for Conservation

This project uses drones to prevent, identify and fight against illegal unsustainable practices.

Abdelaziz Lawani

Age 33, West-Africa (Benin, Burkina-Faso, Niger)

PROJECT: This project uses drones to prevent, identify and fight against illegal unsustainable practices.

Tell us about the work you are doing to create a wilder world.
I strongly believe that young leaders are the keys to end poverty in the world. Fulbright Fellow, Norman Borlaug LEAP Fellow, I am a researcher and social entrepreneur and my dream is to create the ecosystem where young African Leaders can use science technologies and innovations to bring about positive change in their communities. I contribute to many social enterprises that are tackling development problems in Africa. For example, through Youth Entrepreneurs Partners (YEP) we train, mentor and provide seed funds to many young entrepreneurs in West Africa. With Youth and Gender-Based Violence (YGBV) we are training youth to stand against gender-based violence in East Africa. With Transformation of Youth Culture through Comics, we implement a series of pilot projects that aims at improving youth behavior, knowledge, attitude, skills and aspirations through comics. We are currently training youth in primary schools to create environmental friendly social enterprises. Finally I am working with young people to use drones for good: biodiversity conservation, agriculture, health, etc.

 

What are five (5) of your short term goals to accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
1. Help train rangers in Benin, Niger and Burkina-Faso and also the students and staffs of the National School of Wildlife and Protected Area Management in Benin on:
i- GIS practices with open source software (MAPWindow, QGIS, MARBLE)
ii- How to turn aerial images into maps (using tools such as MapKnitter)
iii- The use of unmanned aerial services to monitor wildlife and identify unsustainable levels of illegal fishing, hunting, poaching, grazing
2. Design and conduct a study on the reasons of the unsustainable practices (illegal fishing, poaching, …)
3. Conduct a policy dialogue with all the stakeholders with concerns or issues related to the biodiversity conservation in the WAP (local populations, rangers, administration in charge of the park’s management, etc.).

 

What are five (5) of your long term goals to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
1. Encourage the use of drones for other purposes such as aerial census, impact of various factors (climate change, anthropogenic activities, etc.) on wildlife, vegetation, and others.
2. Set up a Drone Academy where young people can learn about using drones in different areas such as rescue missions, farming, health, livestock monitoring, etc.
3. Create a space where young people can use science and technology to develop innovations that solve the development problems in Africa

 

How can others help you accomplish these goals?
Join our network and spread the word about our initiative.

 

How can the public get involved with your project/work?
Join our network and spread the word about our initiative. Also share the constraints that the protected areas we are working in are facing.
The W-Arly-Pendjary (WAP) is a complex of three protected areas in West-Africa that covers three different countries: Benin, Burkina-Faso and Niger. The complex counts nineteen ecological sites and represents 25% of the sub-regions savannah habitats. It also constitutes the most important remaining area for elephant conservation in Africa and protects more than 370 bird species, 94 insect species, 80 fish species and other various species of reptiles and amphibians (UNDP, 2004). But many of these species are threatened due to the unsustainable practices in the region. Henschel (2014) identified West lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs as imperiled species in the region. He also identified poor park management, prey decline as critical factors that favor illegal unsustainable practices such as poaching, uncontrolled bushfires, timber and fish overexploitation that affects the biodiversity in the complex.
Using drones the present project will contribute to conserve the species under threat by identifying, preventing and fighting against the illegal unsustainable practices. Through the project, rangers and researchers will be trained on how to build and use drones for conservation. During an initial implementation phase of the project in January 2016, many stakeholders have been exposed to the drone technology and have expressed the pressing need to use it to stop the illegal practices. After only one month of implementation, illegal practices have been identified and measures are being taken to stop the perpetrators.

 

What have been some successes you have had?
Collaboration has been developed with conservationists, researchers at the university, to use drones for other purposes such as aerial census, impact of various factors (climate change, anthropogenic activities, etc.) on wildlife, vegetation.

 

What are some lessons you have learned/what would you have done differently?
We were only able to use one kit to teach how to build a drone for our training. This was insufficient because we were training 72 people. For our coming training, we will need more kits.
Our drones were also limited (distance and time of travel). We are currently building a drone that can covers 100km and last for 60 minute.

 

Have there been any major (or minor) milestones in your work?
The drone technology has been adopted by the conservationists in the parks. They need the drones and want them.

I strongly believe that young leaders are the keys to end poverty in the world.

My dream is to create the ecosystem where young African Leaders can use science technologies and innovations to bring about positive change in their communities.

Using drones the present project will contribute to conserve the species under threat by identifying, preventing and fighting against the illegal unsustainable practices.