Sweetpotato is one of major staple crops consumed by almost every household in Rwanda.
Though the government has tried all it takes to improve the agriculture sector especially the sweetpotato production by introducing new varieties, agriculture experts say that the yield or produce the country get is still low due to the fact that farmers sometimes prefer to use vines which are easily affected by diseases and pests as they are not willing to buy quality vines.
This is why International Potato Center (CIP) in partnership with Rwanda Agriculture Board are conducting a study to look for what can be done in order to handle this issue, as explained by Dr. Julius Okello, an agriculture economist at CIP Kenya.
“Rwanda is producing much lower sweetpotato than other countries are doing, and the reason for that is because they don’t have good quality planting material (vines). The vines farmers use in their farms are affected by diseases and pests. Therefore, when they plant the yields are low, and that’s the constraint we are trying to tackle.”
Currently in Rwanda, more than 80% of sweetpotato farmers are sourcing vines from their own farms. And this results into a spread of diseases which leads to a low produce. Srini Rajendran, an Agriculture economist from CIP Kenya, says that this was the main reason they decided to conduct this study in order to find out farmers’ demand for quality planting material and their willingness to buy them in order to reduce the diseases spread.
”If you need a good quality planting material, someone has to produce that, someone has to concentrate on quality aspects. So that’s the reason we want to know what is the willingness to pay the additional premium for the quality attributes.” He says.
“To have better quality roots, you need to have better quality seed. So that’s one of the reasons why we want to understand is there a market for this good quality seed?.” He added.
The study is being conducted in seven districts across four provinces of Rwanda, and currently they are at their last stage of discussions with farmers to know their views about buying quality planting material. Study findings are expected to be presented to stakeholders by mid-2020 so that they can give their feedback.