Sweetpotato farmers in Rulindo district, in the northern province of Rwanda, are requesting for more land to increase the amount of orange fleshed sweetpotato crops despite the decline of clients of their harvests.
Farmers in Bushoki Sector of Rulindo District said that they are no longer facing severe hunger and malnutrition as a result of growing sweetpotatoes, thanks to the contribution of the International Potato Centre (CIP) and Imbaraga Farmer Federation who are working closely to make sure that farmers are gaining from Sweetpotato farming.
CIP has been working closely with the Rwanda Agriculture Board to introduce new potato and Sweetpotato varieties to farmers and since the start of the joint work the harvest has enormously increased.
Muhayimana Margarette, President of Terimbere Muhinzi cooperative based in Bushoki Sector in Rulindo District told TOPAFRICANEWS, on Tuesday 6th November 2018, that their cooperative started cultivating Sweetpotatoes in 2010 and started harvesting in 2012.
“Since then, we have been harvesting enormous quantity of Sweetpotatoes for market and family consumption.” Muhayimana said.
These Farmers used to be confronted by the lack of harvest selling locations.
However, CIP and local Authorities managed to put in place a roadside market at Gasiza which is about 41 Km from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda.
CIP said “This is a model of what collaboration between projects managed by CIP and the local Government can achieve.”
Muhayimana said “We really thank CIP and Imbaraga for helping us, but, she adds “Currently we are harvesting big quantity of sweetpotatoes here. We used to sell them at Nyirangarama (SINA Enterprises), but today SINA is no longer buying quantity that he used to buy from us which is now a challenge to us.”
However, Muhayimana noted that “We can’t conclude that we are in liquidation period because we have other clients from Kigali and Rubavu.”
“We are very optimistic that this problem will be addressed as a number of people who want sweetpotatoes will be increasing.” She added
At Gasiza Roadside Market 1Kg of Sweetpotatos cost 150Rwf, however when it is transported to Kigali it cost between 300Rwf and 350 Rwf.
Mberimana Fidele said that in 10 months he has sold two tones of Sweetpotaoes to various clients from Kigali and other neighboring districts.
He explained that “Members of our cooperatives have managed to connect their houses to the electricity grid, buy cows and they are getting enough manure for fertilizing sweetpotato farms.
“As you see we have enough food here. But, again we are lacking enough space for cultivating more sweetpotatoes and seed multiplication space.
“Most of us grow sweetpotatoes on our small plots; others rent lands from their neighbors. Really we are asking the Government to allocate us the space for sweetpotato farming as they do for other crops like maize, soja, potatoes, etc…”
These farmers are not afraid of the ongoing decline of the clients. They said some of them are trying to develop new products like biscuits, cakes, Breads from Sweetpotoes and many other products.
For Sina Gerard, whom they say is no longer buying from them, said that since he has invested in Agriculture he has found that It is also a good idea to exploit his infrastructures already put in place to grow such crops while at the same time thinking about how he can produce more products from sweetpotatoes.
“Currently we are working on new projects to see what are more products that can be generated from sweetpotatoes.” Sina said
“I can assure you that soon we will be able to produce wine from sweet potatoes.” He added.
Sina revealed that through his Agriculture school more innovations will be made not only in sweetpotatoes processing but also to other crops processing.
He noted he is not refusing to buy their harvests adding that the Enterprise is looking for long-term investment in sweetpotatoes processing.
Apart from Sweetpotatoes, SINA uses harvests from nearby communities in his processing factory.
However he has also invested in multi-business as his Enterprise is expanding.
Officials said the availability of big quantity of sweetpotatoes is not a problem.
“What is really necessary is to see how we can produce more products from sweetpotatoes. We have already biscuits, bread, Cakes, etc…, So as we move with Made in Rwanda products we are optimistic that these sweetpotatoes will be raw materials for other products.” Said Gatabazi Jean Marie Vianney, the Governor of the Northern Province adding that the Northern Province has enough food but the remaining problem is to teach people how to prepare the Food.
In many parts of Rwanda, citizens are not aware of other products that can be generated not only from sweetpotatoes but also from Irish potatoes.
Gatabazi said there is a need for a joint commitment from all actors to think out of the box and look for many ways to come up with new nutritious products from those crops.
The Governor was speaking at an event organized by CIP and RAB in Musanze District where farmers were exhibiting nutritional products made from Orange fleshed sweetpotatoes which are rich source of Vitamin A.
The event was graced by various officials including Members of the Catholic Church in Dioscese de Ruhengeri, RAB officials, CIP delegation and farmers.
The CIP Director General Barbara Wells confirms her organization’s commitment to help the Government of Rwanda in its fight against malnutrition and hunger through enabling farmers’ access the quality seeds that produce good harvests for consumption and market.
“CIP is working closely with RAB to involve other stakeholders for value addition to sweetpotatoes. We will continue to look for solutions together.
“When you look at the potatoes and sweetpotatoes, they are highly nutritious available during the months when other crops are waiting for harvest….So we need to look Sweetpotatoes and potatoes not only for individual consumption, we need also to look at processing…” Barbara said.
She commended Sina Gerard for being a champion in Sweetpotatoes processing as the later are being utilized to produce biscuits, cakes and breads.
In Rwanda the potato products are made by commercial processing plants that are using CIP varieties.
CIP also undertake other activities which include training caregivers with children under 5 years how to prepare balanced diets for the households as well as for their children through the project called Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato Project.
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