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.
This area 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.
The Investment: African Wildlife Capital, alongside the African Enterprise Challenge Fund and Agdevco, made a US$ 950,000 investment into RAC to fund the development of its fast growing Outgrower extension programme; the connection of its new pack-shed to the electricity grid, the development and equipping of a workshop and a staff canteen. Production has since increased from just 6 tons per annum in 2011 to more than 1,000 tons forecast for 2015, generating revenues of more than US$ 1.25 million. Additionally, 3,200 Outgrowers are now engaged, 52% of whixh are female and all of whom have signed, and received training in, the conservation covenants with RAC as required by the African Wildlife Capital financing contract.