Residents of Nyabikiri cell, Kabarore sector in Gatsibo district have welcomed the agroforestry initiative by district authorities, saying it will boost the production of mangoes and help contain land degradation.
Over the weekend, the district and its development partners distributed 5,000 mango seedlings with expectations to stat harvesting within two to three years. This is in addition to some grevelia trees that were distributed to farmers last week
Nyabikiri, which is made up of three large villages, is home to some 11,667 inhabitants.
Formerly part of Gabiro Military Combat Training Centre, Nyabikiri was once a leafy area. The trees have since been irresponsibly exploited by residents for firewood use.
There are no fruit trees among the few surviving trees in the area, forcing residents to trek 14 kilometres from Yeruzalemu to Kabarore market in search for fresh fruits.
"It is a big problem when you do not have fruits close to you and have to travel long distances to buy them," said Jean Baptiste Rurangirwa, the father of three, adding that even just a tree shed is important during periods when the sunshine is too much.
Residents have also been the victims of strong winds, which destroy roofs of houses due to the absence of sufficient trees.
Scovia Mukanyonga said the initiative will contribute to the efforts to fight malnutrition.
"Government gave us land. We are going to use it to plant fruit trees. When our children fall sick, we don't have access to fruits and since we are going to start producing fruits for ourselves, we hope that our children will no longer suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth."
Jean Claude Gisa, from One Acre Fund Tubura--an Nongovernment Organisation (NGO) working with farmers--said they intend to provide six million agroforestry trees in 15 districts--five of them from Eastern province--in a period of one month.
"Rwanda is one of countries where reforestation rate is increasing and delivering positive results. It is very important for both the country and farmers," he said.
The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF)'s Reserve Force has also intervened by providing other varieties of fruit trees in Nyabikiri.
Col. Emmanuel Nzamurambaho, the CEO of Agro-Processing Trust Corporation, told the residents that there will be a steady market for their fruit produce, especially in Kigali, which relies on exports from other East African countries to cater for the high demand.
Nzamurambaho challenged the farmers to put more efforts in fruit production with plans to opening a juice processing plant in Gatsibo district.