Rapidly growing human populations combined with inefficient production techniques are causing vast swathes of natural wildlife habitat to be converted to environmentally unsustainable, low-yield food production. Accordingly, improvements in agricultural production have become one of the most important conservation priorities for Africa, and an area where strategically targeted investment finance can play an important role. The Rungwe Avocado Company (RAC) farms are located in an important conservation complex made up of the Rungwe Forest, Kitulo National Park and Mt. Livingstone Forest Reserve in southern Tanzania.
Our Role: We first worked in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation to understand the conservation context of this area, which is known for its exceptional level of endemism and high biological diversity. Since the catchments from the forests feed numerous villages and towns, the protection of the watershed is also critical to the local human population. Nevertheless, significant poverty related threats exist in the form of forest degradation and deforestation driven by widespread logging, charcoal manufacture, illegal hunting and agricultural expansion – the latter fostered by the high rainfall and the fertile volcanic soils that make this one of most productive areas in Tanzania.
Within this context RAC has developed an innovative outgrower-driven agriculture project that provides an economic alternative to the unsustainable use of and damage to these valuable natural resources. Using grafting processes, it is converting existing, agronomically proven but economically redundant (because their soft skins preclude transportation) Green avocado root-stock into the mass production of export quality, hard-skinned Hass avocados for which there is increasing international market demand. This is increasing income to RAC’s local community outgrowers without any associated opportunity costs, as well as intensifying agricultural production and consequent economic benefits out of existing agricultural land thereby alleviating the need to encroach into and convert natural forest habitat.