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Seed-dropping drones try to stop Kosovo’s deforestation

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A hovering drone drops linden and pine seeds wrapped in soil onto a barren hillside outside Kosovo’s capital Pristina, part of an effort to reforest thousands of hectares lost to illegal logging and wildfires.

Environmentalists say deforestation, also driven by demand for popular wood-fired stoves, is endangering wild animals such as brown bears, lynx, wild goats and roe deer whose populations are diminishing in Kosovo.

According to a study by non-profit organisation Sustainability Leadership Kosova (SLK), the small Balkan country is losing more than 700 hectares of forest yearly.

SLK has teamed up with Croatian company Project 02 to drop seeds from drones, a process that it says is five times faster than human planting and can reach remote areas more quickly.

“We need to do something now, our forests are being destroyed,” SLK founder Indira Kartallozi said in the village of Butovc outside Pristina.

“Today we have dropped 500 balls with multiple seeds inside, and this is just the beginning before we will start a massive reforestation in autumn.”

The technique has already been used in the United States, Brazil, Africa and Europe to counter rapid deforestation. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that woodland the size of Portugal is lost globally every year.

For every flight in Kosovo, the drone is filled with about 100 black balls made up of seeds surrounded by a mix of clay, sand, waste biomass with rich minerals and other ingredients that protect the seeds from insects or rodents.

The drone can plant one hectare in two hours and needs between 2,000 to 5,000 balls, depending on the type of seeds.

“The advantage is that we can plant on any terrain, especially the ones that are non accessible for human hands,” sustainable development expert Lara Vukasovic from Project 02 said as the drone buzzed overhead. She said about 25-30% of seeds germinate, so three times more are planted than required.

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