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Tree-planting drones for restoring mangroves and protecting livelihoods in Myanmar

Saving lives and fighting climate change by rapidly regrowing the forests of vulnerable coastline communities in Myanmar with drones.

Photo of Irina Fedorenko

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Building bridges between community driven mangrove restoration, innovative technology and big data. Benefiting communities in Myanmar, increasing fish stock and reducing the impact of climate change.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Worldview International Foundation (Yangon), BioCarbon Engineering (Oxford) and Route2 (London).

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

We have developed a strategic partnership between the three organizations that are the leaders on their fields. WIF has 5+ years of community work and mangrove planting in Myanmar, BCE has 3+ years of ecosystem restoration and Route2 has a portfolio of clients that include PwC and the Crown Estate.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

The mangrove ecosystems are vital for protecting the coastal communities in a fragile state. Myanmar has already lost over 1 million hectares of forest and globally mangrove forests are disappearing 3 times faster than rainforests especially in view of sea level rise and fish stock depletion.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Yr1 BCE - trial of tree planting drones at project site and training of local teams. WIF - collection of seeds and raw materials and training of marine science teams. Route2 - ‘Ground Up’ design of the ecosystem service assessment and evaluation standard and associated economic valuation models Yr2 BCE- deployment of tree planting drones in the delta region WIF -production of seeds pods with local teams Route2-deployment of the standard Yr3 All- post-planting monitoring.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

WIF -building local partnerships in Myanmar with leading coastal universities, the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, and coastal communities. BCE is responsible for the deployment of the tree planting drone technology, Route 2 will develop the evaluation standard.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Collaborate with others in the sector

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

The successful expansion requires further financial incentives. To this end, and Route2’s role, is the design, development, and implementation of a new ecosystem service assessment and evaluation standard and tradeable token, using blockchain distributed ledger technology. This standard will ascertain the annual economic value of ecosystem services delivered by the forests that we restore, which will enable to make it sustainable and incentivise stewardship and forest expansion.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

We have realised the importance of monitoring our impact and measuring our success over the lifetime of the project, and therefore approached and secured Route2 as our partner to develop the standard and mint to ESCs. We have therefore modified our project proposal based on our user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

If BCE’s mission to help WIF plant 1 billion trees is achieved, it will be significant in addressing negative climate effects by naturally sequestering more than 1 billion ton of CO2 over the first 20 years of ground operations. However, we will need a lot more support and resources to plant 1 billion mangrove trees in the Delta Region of Myanmar in an area of 250,000 ha and annually monitor the total economic value of the restored ecosystems using the ESS.

We are building a strong collaboration between three partners to restore degraded and deforested lands by planting one billion trees per year around the world and we are going to start with restoring degraded mangrove ecosystems and providing sustainable livelihoods and security to the most vulnerable communities living in the Delta Region of Myanmar. 

This idea is a collaboration between a social enterprise BioCarbon Engineering (BCE) based in Oxford, a management consulting firm Route2 based in London, and an NGO Worldview International Foundation (WIF) based in Yangon that tackles the problem of environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods and conflict resolution. This collaboration of three strategic partners addresses the big problem by restoring degraded mangrove ecosystems rapidly on the large scale basis using tree-planting drones while working with local communities to rebuild peace, ensure mangrove forests preservation and building a robust green economy. The project intersects the three topics of peace, prosperity, and planet. 

Explain your idea

In Myanmar it is estimated that 75% of the game fish and 90% of the commercial species in certain areas rely on mangrove ecosystems. Mangroves also serve as physical coastal barriers that can absorb extreme wave and storm activity and oceanic surges. Without mangroves to protect coastlines from such damage human lives can be imperiled, as occurred in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis hit the coastal areas where there was no longer any mangrove protection and more than 150,000 people were killed and millions were affected. WIF has been maintaining peace in the land of conflict that has been ruled by the brutal military junta for the last 50 years and it has been helping with the democratic transition of Aung San Suu Kyi party the National League of Democracy that was born in Oxford. WIF does so by restoring the coastal ecosystems of Myanmar and working with local communities on environmental stewardship and creation of sustainable livelihoods. As part of this collaboration the three strategic partners propose to scale up the mangrove restoration project with the aid of BSE, that invented the technology of using drones for good - to restore damaged and degraded ecosystems. Our collective idea is to deploy new technology in fighting climate change by using tree-planting drones to rapidly regrow the forests of the tide at the mangrove restoration project site in the Delta Region of Myanmar. The WIF team started the pilot project with two local universities to restore 750 ha of mangrove forest back in 2012 and it has planted 2.7 million trees so far. The target for 2017 is to scale the project up by planting 1 million new mangrove trees in another 250 ha of degraded land. WIF now requires a total landscape restoration approach in an area of 4100 ha in the delta region. Surveying is crucial for the project but scaling up the pilot project is very labour intensive and complex as the target area is huge comprising 5 coastal villages.  BCE technology works in two phases. First, fixed wing mapping drones fly 100m above the ground and take highly detailed images of the land (3-5cm resolution). This image data is then crunched using machine learning algorithms, and creates a planting pattern to pinpoint the best places to plant and the best species to plant in each location. In phase two, the mapping information is uploaded into a multirotor planting drone, that flies at 2m above the ground, and plants its seedpods at the locations specified by the map. This approach greatly improves survival rates, while designing multiple mangrove species planting patterns to protect and expand biodiversity while rebuilding ecosystems. It is crucial to speed up the mangroves restoration project as it is such a slow and human intensive process implementing the project in the remote areas of Myanmar. The BCE technology would allow the WIF team to plant forests 10 times faster and at least 50% cheaper, so the local team can focus on community building and forest stewardship.

Who Benefits?

The beneficiaries of this project are the most vulnerable people living on the coastline of the Delta Region of Myanmar who have been suffering from the impact of climate change and conflicts over the years. The project will be implemented in line with achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, in addition to effective mitigation of CO2 contributing to the 2015 UN Paris Climate Agreement. It will prevent ecological collapse and provide valuable synergetic benefits: Provide up to 50% more seafood with better and secured breeding habitat, Sequestrate up to five times more CO2 than rainforest trees and reduce escalations of climate change, Create high value-added livelihood opportunities to disadvantaged coastal communities by reducing poverty – especially among women –by raising orchids, collecting nypa palm sap and bee honey, and providing other new sources of revenue, Save lives and improve environmental health for millions of people in adaptation to climate change,

How is your idea unique?

BCE technology is enabling tree planting cheaper, faster and on a scale that has not been previously possible. The company's approach to ecosystem restoration is driven by science and data, and will enable decision-makers to choose the most appropriate species for their locations. The idea to restore mangrove forests, is unique because it employs innovative technology and leads to multiple benefits - by radically cutting costs for tree planting, it enables to redirect the funds for community development and employment, and peace building. Additionally, mangrove forests are the vital foundation for a complex marine food web, sustaining not only fisheries but many forms of bird and other wildlife. However, mangroves have also become the target of various coastal projects that require the destruction of the mangroves, including the production of charcoal by extremely poor local families who suffer nomadic and unreliable existences. This project reimagines this future.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

WIF became a partner with Mission Blue in 2015 for cooperation in establishing effective mangrove mitigation projects to combat climate change and to support vulnerable coastal communities with long-term sustainable development. Since 2012, WIF has planted 2.7 million mangrove trees. Parallel with mangrove restoration, the project is empowering the local communities with livelihoods and sustainable development including public education and environmental awareness, as vital components for long term success. This also includes the establishment of community energy forests and introduction of fuel saving stoves including community solar energy units for cost efficiency and improved living conditions. The partnership in Myanmar with leading coastal universities, the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) and coastal communities, has opened large potentials in promoting adaptation to climate change. WIF has undertaken a new restoration project on 2500 ha on the request of the MOECAF, including another request by Myeik University to support developing a new mangrove park of 1600 ha. There is also an ongoing process for developing a REDD+ initiative on 25,000 ha in protecting standing mangrove forests and another 7500 ha for restoration. Route2’s foundations are economics and ecosystems. The Founder, Dr. Daniel Lopez Dias completed his PhD under the auspices of Dr. Robert Costanza at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, which involved advising President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Route2 is a data and analytics business providing advisory environmental economic services to an established range of clients including: The Crown Estate, PwC, SGS, and Yorkshire Water. Route2 recently provided the full spatial and economic valuation of the United Kingdom’s coastal ecosystems. BCE is an Oxford-based social enterprise which aims to plant 1 billion trees a year around the world. Since it’s conception in 2014, BCE grew from an idea to a company with 10 highly qualified full-time employees and 2 consultants. Most of the employees hold PhDs from top Universities and have experience in ecosystem restoration around the world. WIF sees significant applications of BCE Technology in the work that it does in Myanmar. If BCE’s mission to help plant 1 billion trees is achieved, it will be significant in addressing negative climate effects by naturally sequestering more than 1 billion ton of CO2 over the first 20 years of operations.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.
  • Yes, we are a registered company.
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Attachments (8)


WIF Report on Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park

Community participation and awareness.pdf

Master's Thesis on interviews of the beneficiaries from project site collected between 2014 - 2015


WIF Executive Summary of 3 years research project supported by Letten Foundation Norway

Mangrove Reb report.pdf

Validation Report done by Dr. Cameron Richards from Raintrust Sustainable Ventures in 2016

Soil Carbon Magyi.pdf

Soil Carbon report done by marine scientists from Pathein University led by Prof. Htay Aung in 2015


Join the conversation:

Photo of Catherine Kamping

This is such a wonderful project! I went to the project site in Myanmar in 2015, and joined the local people as they plant the mangroves in the refo site.

The project is indeed making contribution not just on the aspect of climate change and environmental proctection but it it is also making a big impact on social development as it create awareness in the lives of the people in the community as they become educated with the pressing issues that affects not just their community but as well as their lives and future.

I have witnessed the passion, dedication and commitment the project have created in the hearts of the local people as they contribute their time and energy in planting the mangroves.

It was a heart warming experience and would love to go back again someday and see how the mangroves are growing and the people are doing! And maybe see how more I could be of help.

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