In 2010, we introduced Grevillea trees into our core loan package in Kenya. The following year, One Acre Fund farmers successfully planted 437,000 Grevillea trees. Three years later, we’re setting our sights higher: plant 10 million Grevillea trees in Kenya by 2015.
Why Grevillea trees, and why so many?
The trees grow quickly and require less water and land than many other varieties. Farmers can use the trees for firewood, livestock fodder, crop protection, medicine and shade, and can earn extra income from sales. Farmers know they are making a good investment, which is important. If farmers hold on to the trees and continue to grow them for several years, they can realize a 50-fold increase in profit (see graph).
One Acre Fund is also making a good investment— in environmental sustainability. Grevillea trees prevent soil erosion and remove CO2. It is estimated that 5 million trees remove +25,000 tons of CO2 annually over five years.
We chose to offer Grevillea trees only after running extensive forestry trials, studying tree varieties, and experimenting with planting techniques. We’ve invested heavily in testing and improving our Grevillea tree product through careful trials run by our very own One Acre Fund Innovations Team.
In the months leading up to the 2014 season, the innovations team ran six separate nursery trials. They tested everything from combinations of soil, sand, and manure, to the effectiveness of fertilizer, timing of transplanting into the field, and the effect of planting seeds in tree bags and planting sockets.
The team also conducted seed storage method trials. We learned that storage methods can dramatically affect germination rates for tree seeds and that storage may have been a factor in poor germination percentages in past seasons. This year, we implemented an improved storage system: seeds are repackaged immediately into paper bags, placed into hermetically-sealed GrainPro bags, and then stored in a climate-controlled storage facility.
Currently, the One Acre Fund Innovations Team is running surveys to measure tree survival over time and looking at farmer behavior around tree sales. We’re looking at whether low-cost farmer incentives and trainings are effective in getting farmers to wait until trees mature to sell them.
To better understand the market for Grevillea trees, the team has also recently launched a survey with Tree Traders. Tree Traders typically canvas farms looking for trees to buy, so we hope that in-depth discussions with these entrepreneurs will provide us deeper insight into the general market for trees and tree trader behavior. We will share what we learn with our farmers so that they’re in a better position to increase their potential to profit.
So here’s the math:
Top-notch products + tested planting/storage techniques = more farmer interest. More farmer interest = more trees planted, which is good for the environment and farmers’ bottom line.