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Davis & Emelda Mukolwe

Why One Acre Fund Farmers Are Excited About Trees

Two grevillea farmers explain just how great these trees have been for their farm's health and productivity.

Building Furniture and Pride

Davis Mukolwe shows guests around his renovated house like any proud homeowner, excitedly pointing out new features and speculating about what he’ll do next. At the moment, he’s particularly enthusiastic about woodwork. 

“See this door, see the frame?” Davis asks, knocking his knuckles twice against it so that it makes a hard, solid sound. “These things were made just last month. Even that,” he adds, pointing to the nearby coffee table. “It’s all from the same trees. Grevillea. They’re very straight.”

Davis, a 58-year-old smallholder from Luucho, Kenya, estimates that he has about 100 grevillea trees around his farm – all of them grown from seeds he received from One Acre Fund. Davis and his wife Emelda Nafuna have been enrolled with the organization since 2010, and some of the trees they planted in that first year now make up the furniture and fittings of their house.

Davis & Emelda Mukolwe with door of grevillea Davis and Emelda stand proudly next to the door they made out of their grevillea trees.

A Smart Investment

Davis is one of thousands of One Acre Fund farmers who are growing trees – and not just for their benefits in building furniture. Trees are also a good investment. Grevillea trees grow quickly, and their value increases exponentially as they mature, so that many farmers cut them after five or six years and sell the wood to pay for school fees, home improvements, or other expenditures. Last year alone, One Acre Fund farmers planted about 4 million trees through programs that distributed seeds in Kenya and seedlings in Rwanda. 

Davis says he’s cut some of his trees and sold them to pay school fees for his six children, the youngest of whom is still in primary school. It’s good supplemental income to their three-acre farm. The family also uses the firewood for cooking.

Davis likes the trees for the shade they provide around his house, and he uses the leaves for compost, benefiting the overall health of the soil on his farm. Trees can prevent soil runoff and sequester carbon, making them a powerful tool for fighting climate change.

Davis & Emelda standing on their farm

“The trees take care of soil erosion, and I am able to use the leaves to help improve the soil,” Davis says. “Now I just make sure I bury every leaf. I don’t ever burn them.”

Improved soil health and better farming techniques have meant that the family’s harvests have increased significantly over the past few years. Davis and Emelda plant maize on about half of their land, and before joining One Acre Fund, they used to harvest just six bags of the grain a year. After they enrolled with the organization, they learned how to properly plant crops, apply fertilizer in microdoses, and weed throughout the growing season. Now, Davis and Emelda routinely harvest 20 bags of maize a year, even in 2016 when many farmers in the area suffered from drought.

Rafters made from grevillea wood and solar light

Now that he’s got extra income, Davis has even more plans for his house. He just installed a new solar home system purchased from One Acre Fund. The lights, which operate from energy from the sun, are fixed to the ceilings in the family’s sitting room, hallway, and bedroom. They work by using a switch on the wall. It’s almost like having electricity, Davis says.

“This light, to me, is better than electricity because electricity is expensive and it also can be dangerous,” Davis says. “When there is a small electric surge, it can cause a lot of damage. This solar light cannot cause damage. It serves the purpose. It is bright enough for the house.”

To find out more about solar lamps, trees, and other ways One Acre Fund is working to improve the environment and soil health, click here.

Davis & Emelda Mukolwe outside their home