Regenerative Agroforestry in Rwanda

min read


June 23, 2023

The Opportunity of Regenerative Agroforestry in Rwanda


In the world of agriculture, regenerative agroforestry is a transformative practice that not only boosts productivity but also nurtures ecological balance. In this article, we delve into conversations our team had while recently visiting an agroforestry site in Rwanda. These stories highlight the potential of regenerative agroforestry to reshape agricultural landscapes and empower farmers.


Conventional Farming and the Role of Agroforestry


The hillsides in Rwanda have been extensively farmed for cash crops, such as maize and coffee. However, these practices have led to severe consequences for both the farmers and the environment. Soil erosion and the loss of vital topsoil have become pressing issues, rendering the land less fertile and threatening the livelihoods of communities dependent on agriculture. Additionally, the absence of trees to stabilize the soil on the hills has resulted in dangerous and devastating landslides, further exacerbating the challenges faced by farmers.


Agroforestry presents a promising solution to these challenges, offering a path towards healthier crops and improved food security. How does this work? Through the strategic integration of trees alongside crops, agroforestry provides numerous benefits. Trees act as natural barriers, preventing soil erosion and holding the soil in place. They offer shade to the crops, reducing moisture loss and improving growth conditions. Furthermore, trees contribute to water filtration and retention, and their biomass and leaf litter enrich the soil, providing natural fertilization. This holistic approach nurtures soil health, enhances biodiversity, and fosters a more resilient agricultural system.


Hillsides of Rwanda


Partnership with One Acre Fund


One Acre Fund, a prominent organization dedicated to supporting smallholder farmers, has been instrumental in implementing regenerative agroforestry in Rwanda and veritree is proud to partner with them to scale this practice. Together, with the support of our corporate partners, we are providing smallholder farmers with the necessary financial resources, skills, expertise, and locally distributed tree seedlings to enhance the productivity, soil health, and climate resilience of their crops. By prioritizing the needs of farmers and empowering them as stewards of their lands, the program aims to enable farmers to grow more food, plant more trees, earn higher incomes, and improve their overall livelihoods.


Insights from Rwandan Farmers


During a recent visit to Rwanda, we had the opportunity to witness firsthand the impact of regenerative agroforestry on local farmers. Meeting with One Acre Fund and engaging in conversations with locals, we observed the positive changes brought about by this approach. Farmers who had integrated sustainable agroforestry into their farming practices reported noticeable improvements in soil health, including reduced erosion and better water retention. 


One conversation in particular left a lasting impression on us. We had the pleasure of meeting Jean Pierre, a former plumber who had transitioned into farming. Jean Pierre's perspective was enlightening and poetic. He likened trees to a bank, stating that "In one word, a tree is a bank, a bank account, a savings account." He emphasized that trees were not mere plants but valuable assets that farmers could rely on to secure their livelihoods. Just like a bank account holds savings and provides a sense of security, trees serve a similar purpose for farmers.


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Jean Pierre's analogy beautifully captured the multitude of benefits and long-term value that trees brought to farmers. Much like a savings account that accumulates interest over time, trees grew and developed, offering an array of resources and services that farmers could utilize. Just as one can withdraw funds from a bank account when needed, farmers could derive benefits from trees when they required additional income or resources.


The comparison also underscored the importance of long-term planning and investment in trees. Similar to consistent deposits into a bank account that lead to increased savings, nurturing and growing trees over time resulted in a higher return in the form of improved soil fertility, increased crop yields, and income generation. Farmers could diversify their "investment portfolio" by planting a variety of tree species, minimizing risks associated with climate change and agricultural uncertainties.


However, the success of regenerative agroforestry lies not only in its initial implementation but also in long-term support and collaboration. Farmers like Jean Pierre emphasized the need for continued guidance and assistance to ensure the growth and maintenance of their agroforestry systems. Ongoing support in the form of knowledge sharing, resources, and mentorship is crucial to enable farmers to thrive and sustain the benefits of regenerative agroforestry practices. In this pursuit, partnerships between organizations, corporate sponsors, and farmers play a pivotal role in scaling up these initiatives and creating a resilient and prosperous agricultural sector.


Farmer holding an avocado


The Path to Resilient and Prosperous Farming


The stories shared by community members taking part in regenerative farming in Rwanda shed light on the transformative power of agroforestry. By integrating trees into agricultural systems, we can nurture ecological balance, enhance soil fertility, and empower farmers. The partnership between organizations like veritree and One Acre Fund, combined with sustained support and collaboration, will pave the way for widespread adoption of regenerative agroforestry practices. Together, we can usher in a new era of resilient and prosperous agriculture, where farmers prosper, ecosystems flourish, and our planet thrives.

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