Smallholder farmers in the forefront of the climate change dialogue

Eric Niyonsaba, Tree Nursery Director
Eric Niyonsaba, Tree Nursery Director, One Acre Fund

One Acre Fund, known in Rwanda as ’Tubura’ (which means ‘to multiply’), is a non-profit organisation that operates like a business and serves smallholder farmers. They always try to put #FarmersFirst in everything they do. One Acre Fund operates in six countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. One of them is Rwanda, where we arrived after 26-hour journey from different cities in Poland.

Rwanda is a small country located in the middle of Africa, close to the Equator. Except for astonishing views, flora diversity, hardworking and cheerful people, they have several problems, such as a small crop area, soil erosion, high population density, poverty and unpredictable weather. Nowadays, this a direct result of constantly unstable climate.

One Acre Fund, in response to these problems, offers solutions on several levels. One of those is tree nursery that we visited during our first days in Karongi district, Rwanda.

visit to tree nursery

Eric Niyonsaba, Tree Nursery Director, runs the nursery. Plants and agriculture are his real passion. He introduced us to tree nursery matters with huge expertise and self-confidence, comprehensively answering our questions.

Eric Niyonsaba, Tree Nursery Director
Eric Niyonsaba, Tree Nursery Director

We saw several types of plants, but mainly grevellia robusta (which is known as silky oak), hass avocado and mango. Grevellia robusta is a very easy tree to plant and grow, so One Acre Fund has decided to give it to farmers for free in order to support them in overcoming soil erosion. Grevellia robusta needs only three years to grow up to 10 metres and does not require any special conditions.

Avocado plants need much more care and therefore are not so popular among clients of One Acre Fund. Only few farmers decide to buy that kind of plant, even though they have a special price at the tree nursery, much lower than the local market offers. There are different reasons for that, which I found really interesting.

An avocado needs three months to start sprouting. If you want to plant a seed directly, you will have to wait approximately 10 to 15 years for fruits. The tree nursery crew explained to us how to speed up that time to less than eight years. Unfortunately, there is still a problematic short “shelf-life” of avocado. After two to four days, it may start to rot.

On the other hand, the avocado is a very important source of nutrients and fat composition, especially with growing importance of veganism and harmful effects of meat consumption worldwide. It contains several vitamins and potassium, just to name few positive aspects. Still, only 11% of global avocado production is cultivated in Africa and barely any exported to Europe, for example, come from Rwanda.

Referring to Rwandan agriculture and One Acre Fund activities, proven solutions and new innovations can help agriculture adapt to climate change, unpredictable weather and conditions. By scaling these, we could protect some of the world’s most vulnerable groups from the impacts of climate change. This is an increasingly urgent global concern that disproportionately affects the world’s smallholder farmers, who generally depend on rain-fed agriculture and often already live at the edge of subsistence.

One Acre Fund is in the process of building Africa’s largest multi-layer climate resilience shield for smallholders. The goal is to transform one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable communities into a frontline force against climate change, putting farmers at the forefront of the global climate change dialogue, where they belong. 

Our impact from every place in a world, from every habitation, is not insignificant. We have enough resources between us to strengthen the shield that is being constructed. At least this is what I understood and believe in, and it gave me real power to act for a more sustainable world around me.

Visit at plantation
Visit at tree nursery plantation
    Lukasz Tendera