An Overview of Baotree
Baotree is a registered entity in Kenya & the United Kingdom. It is a data collection, verification and management software, which exists to be of service to organizations that work with communities. One of the main objectives of the software is to provide a way of ensuring a participatory approach to the monitoring and evaluation of community based projects. Baotree allows for the collection, verification and analysis of data to inform objectives and outcomes desired for policy development, governance, decision making and in optimizing operations. Baotree has so far partnered with Kenyan Conservancies such as Ol Pejeta, Borana and Loisaba to provide a tool that ensures collaboration in conservation efforts. Apart from Conservancies, Baotree also works with non-governmental and private organizations to offer a system that measures environmental, social and economic impacts.
Baotree team training community members on the App
By ensuring a central place to collect, monitor and verify data, Baotree is able to inform community managers on the progress of implemented projects, and ensure collaborative work with community members involved.
The system is a way to include communities in their own projects and to be a part of the data collection, and at the same time redeem selected benefits by working with the organization. Managers are able to get input and feedback from community members, and assign tasks to be reported and completed by the members.
Baotree App at a glance; A central hub that allows collaboration in projects
Founded and guided by Dimitri Syrris, Baotree has worked with several organizations to support community-based projects that have a high success rate. With feedback from partner organizations and advisors on board, Baotree is constantly developing and integrating new features that work to improve how sustainable impacts are measured by organizations and to ensure a more collaborative approach to projects.
Dimitri describes Kenya as a beautiful, authentic country in East Africa, with an interesting position near the Horn of Africa, surrounded by countries that makes it a complex yet beautiful system. He believes that culture, different beliefs and languages of the people makes Kenya a wonderful space to innovate and integrate new technologies that foster relationships.
Due to the migratory landscapes in Kenya’s conservancies, human- wildlife coexistence is a very common concept that comes with it’s fair share of positives and negatives. Baotree therefore started primarily in Kenya with the idea of solving identified recurring problems surrounding human- wildlife coexistence, by working to steer people’s attitudes and behaviors towards positive biodiversity outcomes.
We aim to achieve Baotree’s product market fit in Kenya, followed by the motivation to fostering scale anywhere in the world- Dimitri Syrris
Baotree Team Engaging with the Community
Being a technology company, connection is an integral part in ensuring proper interaction with the software. Strong internet connection across Kenya, made possible by Safaricom- the leading communications company in Kenya with the widest and strongest coverage- has allowed the effective operationalization of Baotree, with many of its features supported by the connection. The robust connectivity in Kenya is one of the many reasons why the Baotree team decided to pilot in the country and have since enjoyed the benefits that come with the strong and wide coverage.
As a software company, Baotree can operate anywhere in the world and the team therefore tries to get themselves into spaces where they are most needed. Apart from Kenya, they have programs set up in South Africa, Thailand, and hope to expand to Zimbabwe, Rwanda, South Sudan and Somalia, before June 2022.
Successful Baotree projects in Kenya
- Loisaba Conservancy & Koija and Nanapaa Communities
In 2020, Baotree rolled out a new human-wildlife coexistence project in Loisaba Conservancy, which involved the neighboring Koija and Nanapaa communities. The idea behind this project was to have community members choose a benefit they would like to receive after completing conservation tasks assigned to them. In this case, the communities chose to have predator proof bomas installed, to help reduce human- wildlife conflicts and to keep their livestock safe.
The Baotree software was a central place where Loisaba could develop community tasks, track them and verify impact. In order to receive the chosen community benefits, the community members were tasked to report sightings of endangered species, human wildlife conflicts and the removal of invasive species such as Opuntia sp.
This data was verified via an app by Baoriders - security rangers trained by the Baotree team. This exchange happened for several weeks and different tasks were verified and validated. Once the community reached their target verified goals, funds were released and they received the predator proof bomas as the exchange.
Verification by Baoriders at Loisaba Conservancy
- Borana Conservancy & Sanga Community
Similar to how the project model at Loisaba Conservancy was, Baotree was able to adopt the same with Borana Conservancy and the Sanga Community. In this project, Baotree discussed with the management team at Borana conservancy and the identified challenge faced was that women in the Sanga community spent approximately 70% of their day collecting water through very dangerous terrains. The goal was to therefore ensure that community members had access to clean water.
The Sanga community had a broken gravity water pipe installed to channel water from an underground spring. They therefore chose to have the pipe repaired and have an additional water catchment tank to provide water for their livestock and the wildlife in Borana Conservancy. The conservancy tasked the community to provide valuable data on human-wildlife conflicts and the removal of Opuntia sp- which is a persistent invasive species in the region. Over the testing period, community members reported 190 tasks and 77 were completed and Verified by Baoriders and staff from Borana Conservancy. With this, the community was able to earn a repaired water pipe, and a new water tank and trough that would be of great benefit, especially to the women.
This project was a great way to empower the women in the community and what was notable was that they were now able to spend more time with their children and in other economically beneficial activities. By empowering the community members, Borana Conservancy believes that they will now be able to reduce the biodiversity challenges faced.
- Ol Pejeta Conservancy
In 2020, Baotree went ahead to partner with Ol Pejeta conservancy, to integrate the software in their community management systems. This project targeted the youth whose income sources had been affected by COVID 19. The youth in the neighboring communities had great ideas for generating income but did not have the resources, and this is where Baotree came in. The youth reported 62 tasks and incidents of human-wildlife conflict, of which 44 were completed and verified by the staff at Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Baoriders. From this, community members earned chicken incubators and a back-up generator which is a sustainable income source and a way to address food insecurity issues.
Baotree was able to assist the Ol Pejeta community staff track and evaluate their community- based projects and provide a way to monitor their impact and the conservation tasks the neighboring community members take part in. The software provided an efficient system to manage several activities in one central and flexible place.
What sets Baotree apart, as a Data Collection, Verification & Management Software
Baotree strongly believes that conservation is mostly about people and conservation efforts benefit most when people benefit too. The team therefore sees the importance of uplifting under-represented and indigenous people in remote areas, to have an inclusive system; with them benefiting from conservation efforts by being actively involved in running projects as well as the implementation of the software.
Baotree is the first data collection Software as a Service (SaaS) tool that is tackling the ground-level, adding layers of efficiency and transparency- Dimitri Syrris
There are great softwares that exist, which focus on wildlife management and monitoring, a vital conservation aspect, but this only covers a single conservation ecosystem and sector. The idea of Baotree is not to replace these tools and systems, but complement them by adding a human centric focus and holistically solve conservation as well as societal challenges. The software therefore brings to the table a very unique niche and provides a great solution to managing the relationship between people and nature.
Baotree includes all stakeholders
The software developed factors in environmental, economic, social and governance aspects, making it an all-encompassing hub for data and project management. Standardized data collection and verification allows for credible output derivation, which replaces excel spreadsheets, emails and pen to paper that often have a lot of human errors. This central data and information repository, made possible by Baotree’s software, allows for proper tracking and forecasting of projects, as well as the inclusion of all stakeholders. The organization’s aim is to unlock and solve the grassroot data collection challenge.
Baotree is the first data collection Software as a Service (SaaS) tool that exists to save time and costs of projects, as well as ensure efficiency and transparency. Being the first data collection Saas comes with challenges that Baotree seeks to resolve by making communities aware of the benefits of adopting the tool.
Challenges faced when deploying Baotree
Initially, Baotree was struggling to include an offline functionality to the software, given most of their operations are in remote areas. The team started off by having a progressive web application, which could work across any smartphone because one could just log in and have the website as an application on their home screen. This did not have a good offline functionality to it, which led the team into developing a native application that can be downloaded from Google or app stores, subsequently giving a full offline functionality. This works well so far but the team is striving to solve this by adding an offline and online toggle where users can capture data in the field and once they have connectivity, can upload it online.
The effects that came along with COVID forms part of some of the major challenges Baotree has encountered since 2020. With the collapse of the tourism sector, there was a massive financial strain on the conservancies that the organization was working with. This led the team into realizing that the solution they are providing is beyond the conservation space, and their partner base includes all those working with communities. They therefore had to iterate their purpose and work with partner organizations, and seek ways of expanding their work.
COVID confirmed and enhanced the idea of Baotree being intentionally a for profit entity. The team believes that in order to be truly scalable and have a technological tool that is constantly evolving, the organization needs to be sustainable. This balance and realization was made possible during the team’s journey through COVID.
With the design, development and deployment of a new technological solution to serve communities, comes resistance and doubt. Baotree is no exception to this since people get worried with how transparent they can be when using the software. The education component of it has been quite challenging, but at the same time a motivating factor to the team, to keep doing what they do. The need to be more transparent with data and information is the reason why Baotree exists.
The Unexpected positives witnessed when deploying Baotree
The positives of running the organization mostly revolves around the aspects of having a great community, unrelenting support and meaningful collaborations . Throughout Baotree’s journey, the team has witnessed unparalleled support from their advisors and partner organizations. They have been very keen to give advice and guide decisions that advance Baotree’s operations. This has encouraged the team to progress their work and explore innovative solutions to incorporate to the software.
It’s not just one Conservancy or one Organization that will save the world. It needs to be everyone- it's the only way- Dimitri Syrris
COVID’s timing is another factor that Baotree leveraged to their advantage. With COVID, most things moved online due to the lockdown, and for the Baotree team, this meant that connecting with people was easier. This brought about great collaborations and connections that would otherwise have not been possible were it not for the fact that most things moved online.
Baotree has recently ventured into working with Universities such as the African Leadership University to offer internships, and have so far seen students bring on board interesting perspectives on the design and implementation of technological solutions . The organization is really keen on ensuring that this generation of youngsters are involved in developing and rolling out new technologies.
The realization that, given the nature of the problem Baotree is solving, the more time the team spends solving it, the bigger they find it to be, is both a pro and con. This challenges the team to find areas where they can collaborate and innovate new ways of solving challenges that come up.
Meet the Baotree Team
- Dimitri Syrris- CEO and Founder
A native South African, Dimitri has spent his time across 14 of the continent’s beautiful countries, spurring him to become an environmental community technologist by day, and a wildlife ranger at heart. Prior to founding Baotree, Dimitri spent eight years in the marketing technology sector in London specializing in big data, AI and deep machine learning for global brands. It was during a 7-month Africa expedition in 2019 that Dimitri decided to infuse his love for technology and wildlife by creating Baotree. In his free time, Dimitri sits on YPO’s Planet Action Network executive Committee and is an active member of the YNG (Youth Next Generation) Community.
Beyond being outdoors and in nature, Dimitri enjoys having a good time with family and friends. He is a very social and optimistic person, hoping to create a positive impact in society and provide solutions that contribute to the preservation of our great planet!
- Skye Aspden- Co-Founder and Mr. Product
Skye has been working at the intersection of tech, brand and marketing for 15 years. His experience has been working with start-ups, traditional ad agencies and growth phase companies to enhance their operations in digital distribution, management and analysis. He is currently based in Amsterdam, as the COO of Baotree, and manages Baotree’s non-profit entity BaoConnect. Skye is a believer that innovative tech solutions need to change the future of community development and biodiversity management, equipping the stakeholders on-the-ground to create sustainable and scalable change.
- Mike Simpson- Co-Founder and Master of Coin
Mike has over 14 years of experience working in investment banking (in the US) and private equity and debt investing (in Europe and Africa). His investing career began at D.E. Shaw, a $30bn+ hedge fund, where he specialized in high-yield lending. Mike has also consulted on financial operations, investing, strategy and fundraising for firms such as Blackstone, KKR, KPMG and various global family offices.