Kigali, August 26, 2019: More than 350 researchers, policy-makers, development partners and entrepreneurs have gathered in Kigali to exchange knowledge and experiences on potato and sweet potato production as they attend the 11th triennial African Potato Association (APA) Triennial Conference that is running till the 29th August 2019.
This triennial conference, which was officially opened today by the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, was cohosted by the Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) and the International Potato Center (CIP).
Themed “Leveraging the contribution of potato and sweet potato for sustainable nutritious food systems,” attracted participants from 20 African countries and beyond. The APA Conference will provide room for researchers to present their latest findings, conduct panel discussions with relevant stakeholders and to strengthen cooperation in the sector to continue to grow the potato and sweet potato success story in Africa.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Minister Mukeshimana noted that the Kigali APA Conference will be an opportunity for participants from sister countries in Africa, working on potato and sweet potato research to engage in discussion and sharing research developments, challenges facing their development and chart ways and strategies to overcome them.
Minister Mukeshimana highlighted the importance of potatoes in Rwanda as they are playing a great role in ensuring food security and providing nutritious foods.
“Sweet potato is an important food security and nutrition crop in Rwanda and contributes as source of family cash income. In caloric terms, Sweet potatoes contribute to 21.6 % of the total national requirements,” the Minister said. “Average productivity of Potato and Sweet potato in Rwanda is 10 tons/ha and 7 tons/ha, respectively. This productivity is low as compared to yield potential. The Ministry of Agriculture is collaborating with partners to address these challenges through research programs.”
During the opening ceremony, there were several speeches given including the Deputy Director General of International Potato Center (CIP), Dr. Oscar Ortiz who highlighted the involvement of CIP towards the contribution of the promising crops (potato and sweetpotato) to the sustainable food systems. Other keynote speakers include Romain Cools, the President and CEO of the World Potato Congress Inc. and Dr. Amy Webb Girard, an Associate Professor at the Hubert Department of Global Health.
This year, more than twenty-two (22) agriculture research institutes, local and international NGOs and private companies involved in the agriculture value chain have exhibited what they do.
At the end of this 3-day conference, there will be a field trip on the 29th August, which will showcase how the Rwandan agriculture sector is performing, with emphasis on the potato and sweet potato industries. APA participants will visit the potato value chain in the north at the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) Musanze station, SOPYRWA (for potato seed production) and Hollanda FairFoods for potato processing.
For the sweet potato value chain in the north, guests will visit Sina Gerald Urwibutso Enterprise (sweet potato processing) and Koperative Terimbere Muhinzi (KOTEMU) Farmers’ group in Rulindo (sweet potato vine multiplication and root production). Other trips will include the sweet potato value chain in the south at Rubona RAB station and in the east at Bralirwa and Minimex (BRAMIN) Farm for mechanized agriculture.11