Reporting from the Field: Landscape Restoration in Burundi


One Acre Fund
(Photo credit: One Acre Fund)

Tree Planting Season in Burundi

Something special happened in Burundi this December and January. Across just a handful of weeks, over 170 thousand farmers queued up with their neighbors outside more than 300 locally managed tree nurseries. By the time January came to a close, these farmers had toted home over 3.3 million tree seedlings. These included grevillea, cordia africana, and cedrella trees for sustainable timber production; and croton megalocarpus and calliandra trees for soil health.

These bustling few weeks were the culmination of months of planning and preparation. Each seed had to be carefully sourced, and then delivered to remote, hard-to-reach rural nurseries at the right time in the season for planting. They then had to be tended, watered, and shaded by the nursery managers. Meanwhile, local leaders spread the word in their communities that farmers would soon be offered the opportunity to collect these tree seedlings and plant them on their own farms.

Restoring Landscapes, One Planting Season at a Time

This One Acre Fund program, in partnership with the Bezos Earth Fund, is targeting a specific problem – landscape degradation. Together with partners, we are working in support of Africa’s audacious vision to restore 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land.

Specifically, our work aims to accelerate restoration in the Rusizi Basin, part of the broader Congo Basin ecosystem; and in the Great Rift Valley, which is home to critically important forests. These landscapes were chosen for their importance as biodiversity hotspots, water catchment areas, and food baskets – as well as the presence of hundreds of restoration entrepreneurs and community leaders that need support.

(Photo credit: One Acre Fund)

Degraded Landscapes, Reduced Incomes

In Burundi, climate change and deforestation have wrought serious havoc on local landscapes. This is a particularly pressing problem in a hilly place like Burundi: without tree root systems to hold steeply pitched earth in place, landslides have become quite common. They can often sweep families’ entire annual harvest and costly-to-replace soil nutrients away into valley basins and rivers, leaving farmers without their primary (sometimes only) source of food and income.

Soil health is also a challenge here. Because Burundian farmers typically need to meet their families’ food needs on less than an acre of land, they don’t have the luxury of leaving fields fallow to rest and rejuvenate. And many farmers don’t have access to reliable sources of soil-friendly organic materials like manure.

Trees can help with these issues. Because tree roots run so deep, they can reach nutrients that live deep in the soil and return them to the depleted upper layers. This enriches soil, increases harvests, and enables farm families to eat better.

Trees also offer material benefits to farm families. Fruit and nut trees offer valuable sources of food and income, while other varieties can supply fodder to families with farm animals. And timber trees - that are sustainably replanted year on year - can supply significant income through their sale, allowing families to make school fee payments, improve their homes, weather shocks, and purchase productive assets such as dairy cows. And they do this while sequestering carbon and enhancing biodiversity.

Burundian farmer Mediatrice Ndayikeza shares her view of these challenges, and the way trees can help to combat them, in the 1 minute video below:

Meet smallholder farmer: Mediatrice Ndayikeza from Burundi

Local Change; Global Impact

Africa has suffered the most extensive land degradation of nearly anywhere in the world, with a staggering 65% of land deforested and degraded. But that also means it’s home to the world’s largest restoration opportunity, with more than 750 million hectares of degraded land that could be restored. Currently, one of the most significant bottlenecks preventing progress is lack of funding for action at scale.

The Bezos Earth Fund, in partnership with One Acre Fund and other partners, is working to change that. Our consortium is deploying implementation finance to restore degraded land in two critical geographies - the Greater Rusizi Basin and the Great Rift Valley. Together, we will:

  • Restore 25,000 hectares of degraded land, in partnership with smallholder farmers

  • Plant 16,300,000 trees

  • Sequester 3.77+ million metrics tons of CO2 by 2025

  • Create 11,700 full and seasonal jobs, focusing on Africa’s burgeoning youth population

This most recent season in Burundi is an exciting step along the pathway to restoration at scale.

Want to learn more about how global climate trends are affecting smallholder farmers? See One Acre Fund’s recent “Global Croptake” report here.

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