By Kanamugire Emmanuel
The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources through Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), has demonstrated the commitment to reduce the postharvest loss of potato and sweet potato commodities.
Rwanda ranks the 6th top producer of potato and sweet potato on the continent. Statistics show that last year 916 063 metric tons of potato and 1 186 731 metric tons of sweet potato were harvested in the county.
However, the country records only three processing plants for potato in the country whereas there is none for sweet potato. Farmers also complain lack of technology to ease storage of the two commodities which increase the postharvest loss.
The Secretary General for Imbaraga Farmers Association, Gafaranga Joseph, said “We need a factory to process sweet potatoes so that we can keep them for a long time. There is a good productivity, many people consume them but there are no storage facilities to ease their utilization when there is no production. We need technology that can help storing potatoes and sweet potatoes.”
Speaking at the press conference after the official opening of the 11 th African Potato Association Triennial Conference, Monday, 26 August, the Director General of Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board, Dr Patrick Karangwa has called for the support of private sector in processing activities and storage to fight the loss of the harvest.
“We need a step forward to reduce postharvest loss. Statistics show that over 16% of the overall production including potato and sweet potato commodity is damaged but in PSTA4, we want to minimize it under 5%.”
“The Public private partnership (PPP) is key to do more in the area of opening factories, managing and developing them. The government cannot start all processing plant that are needed”, he added.
According to Bucagu Charles, The president of APA (African Potato Association), Potato and sweet potato are very important crops not only in Rwanda but also in Africa. But there are a number of challenges affecting their production, ranging from seed system to the processing and marketing, so this is the key area to be the major focus of the conference.
“This conference is an opportunity for different stakeholders and players across Africa, the World to share knowledge and networking, discuss about key challenges affecting these two commodities.”
The Deputy Director General of the International Potato Centre, Dr Oscar Ortiz, emphasized the need of collaboration between the public and private sector in the development of potato and sweet potato.
“These are the products that can really change life for people and also create income and what we try to achieve is to increase possibilities for value change to be set, because there is knowledge and money to invest in from the private sector; what is missing is the collaboration between the public and private sector”, he said.
Serge Ganza, the President of an association of Sweet potato growers and seed multiplier in Kamonyi district, said that it’s time for people to value sweet potato, investing in it professionally and work on its value addition.
According to RAB, insurance in agriculture and irrigation schemes are the ones that will help increasing the productivity to be processed because the- on and off production discourage the investors in the sector.
This year the government of Rwanda has invested Rwf 11 billion in postharvest facilities in different districts and there is a remarkable step forward.
The 11th African Potato Association Triennial Conference has brought together researchers, decision makers and development partners participants from more than 20 African countries alongside other partners from South America and Europe. It’s a good opportunity to share knowledge, lessons, expertize which help to advance in potato and sweet potato in the country.
Partners and sponsors include the International Potato Center, the World Potato Congress, the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity whose aims are to improve the nutritional status of women and children and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.