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What do avocados and cabbages have in common with gorillas?

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They’re both “helping people, saving gorillas” in Rwanda

Our Nature Club student partners are at it again!

This time, students from the Rwinzovu and Butaka schools are planting and distributing fruit and vegetable seedlings to help combat food insecurity within their communities, which keeps people from turning to the forest for food sources, protecting the nearby mountain gorilla habitat.

“I love avocado fruits,” says Alex Bugingo, a 48-year-old farmer from Musanze, Rwanda. “I received three avocado tree seedlings today, and hope that in two years I can start harvesting.” Once these trees, which were given to him by students at the Rwinzovu school, reach maturity, Alex will be able to harvest the fruit from his yard, improving his family’s nutrition and allowing them to use their limited funds for other purposes. In addition, he’ll be able to sell any surplus crops, improving his family’s economic outlook.

Woman holding avacado from her farm near kinigi
This long-term project, intended to help protect mountain gorillas, has already yielded fruit — literally! Here Esther Uwayisaba, an early recipient, shows off some of the avocados she has begun to harvest.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the Fossey Fund supported a wide variety of student-led projects at sixteen primary school nature clubs and eight secondary school environmental clubs. Club members at the Rwinzovu school worked with their teachers to grow avocado seedlings in their nurseries, and they learned grafting techniques that will allow them to grow even more trees in the coming years. Club members have already established more than 21,000 avocado trees in nurseries, and mature seedlings are being distributed to nature club members and families living near the school.

Kids from nature club holding cabbage
Nature Club students at Butaka school are “helping people, saving gorillas” by harvesting cabbages for distribution within their community and at school

Meanwhile, students at the Butaka school planted 700 cabbage seedlings for one of their Nature Club projects. Each of the 45 students was able to bring a cabbage home to their family. In addition, they distributed more than 400 pounds of cabbages to local families in need and donated the rest of the harvest — almost 2,000 pounds! — to their school in order to support a government food security initiative that aims to ensure students have a balanced and healthy diet. 

“We are proud of our nature club students,” says Maurice Ngiramahoro, the Fossey Fund’s conservation education coordinator. “They are helping their neighbors to access nutritious food while reducing their reliance on the forest as a food source. They truly embody our mission of ‘Helping People, Saving Gorillas’.”