For Claudine Ayinkamiye, producing food means her family’s survival. In the steep terraced hills of the Nyaruguru district, Rwanda, farming is a way of life for most people.
Historically, it has not been an easy way of life for Claudine. The 30-year-old farmer with two young children frequently saw poor harvests because she could not afford fertilizer or new seed varieties and lacked knowledge of modern planting techniques.
“The fertilizers were expensive, and we had to use cash,” says Claudine, just one of the many subsistence farmers in Rwanda who want to expand their production to sell commercially but lack the initial cash investment to start the journey.
“My harvest was for home consumption because I couldn’t invest,” she recalls with frustration.
But she didn’t know that one meeting was going to change her farming. She heard that she could get fertilizer and maize seed on credit and learn about new planting techniques through One Acre Fund.
A life changing meeting
A few days later, she joined a meeting of 15 farmers and left with an order of fertilizer and modern maize seed that would be delivered all the way to her remote village.
“I was so happy to hear that I was going to be having enough fertilizer for my whole land,” Claudine says.
In her first harvest— armed with new seeds, fertilizer and planting knowledge— Claudine harvested 500 kilos of maize and 400 kilos of potatoes. She sold the surplus to pay her workers and used the profit to renovate her home. In just one season, she jumped from subsistence to business.
Increasing the yield and income of farmers like Claudine is the first step to make them more resilient to climate change. With a more stable income, Claudine could invest in different crops and enterprises, making her less dependent on one single income stream if extreme weather hits.
Becoming a tree entrepreneur
As such, Claudine diversified and became a tree nursery manager for One Acre Fund in her area in 2019. One Acre Fund helped her start a tree nursery, where neighbouring farmers could buy seedlings.
“When I came to live in this area, many farmers could not buy trees. It was not because they did not like trees but because they had nowhere to find the seedlings,” she adds.
It was an immediate success as farmers knew that trees would protect against soil erosion and landslides in the steep hills of Rwanda, and would keep the soil healthy.
With climate breakdown increasing extreme weather like floods and drought, farmers knew that planting trees was more important than ever.
In Claudine’s first year, she grew 7,000 seedlings, distributing them to over 350 farmers.
Claudine was delighted to help so many farmers. She also found out she would be earning money herself. In her first year, she earned enough money to install running water in her house.
“We used to fetch water 400 meters from our home, and that was time-consuming,” she explains. “Thanks to One Acre Fund, we have the water close to us and we save our time.”
Each year since, Claudine has been steadily using the stable income from the One Acre tree nursery to buy more land, which she hopes will be a gift for future generations too.
“My children and grandchildren will also benefit from this land,” Claudine says.