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Bill & Melinda Gates foundation pledges $15 million to modernize sweet potato breeding and seed system

Sweet potato is among the most consumed crop in the World and it is the fifth most important food crop in terms of fresh weight. More than 130 million tons are produced per year.

In Africa, Sweet potato comes 3rd among the most important food crop in 7 Eastern and Central African countries after cassava and maize.

The crop seems to be very useful in Africa and the whole World as well.

Scientists and researchers in agriculture say that there are still challenges in its production system where some varieties do not meet the needs of consumers and users.

This is the reason why International Potato Center-CIP with its stakeholders have introduced a project called “Sweet GAINS” where they brought together East and Central Africa Speedbreeders and Seed Systems Community of Practice in a meeting that took place in Kigali from 18th to 22nd February 2020, to discuss about what should be done to strengthen linkages between breeding activities and commercial seed producer’s contribution to accelerated dissemination and adoption of market preferred varieties.

“The idea of the discussions is to make it possible for the breeders to breed quickly, and produce varieties that meet the needs of the market, processors and consumers.” says Dr. Robert Mwanga, a sweet potato breeder from Uganda and CIP agent in East and Central Africa.

Dr. Robert Mwanga- sweet potato breeder from UGANDA

Apart from market needs, CIP says that they are looking for how they can breed varieties which are not much impacted by climate change as they found that this region is being affected by this issue but also the new varieties have to be more productive than the current ones and being rich in Vitamin A, as revealed by Hugo Campos, official from CIP headquarters in Peru.

He said: “We want to develop varieties which are more resilient to climate change, which are more tolerant to drought, which are more tolerant to heat, so that the impact of climate change on the productivity of those varieties can be mitigated.

 “We want to keep developing varieties which are more productive and some of them will ready to deliver Vitamin A” Added Campos.

HUGO Campos – CIP Peru

As one of the top sweet potato consuming countries in Africa, Rwanda, the host of the meeting, will benefit from the targeted varieties improvements due to the fact that most of the varieties the country has were used for only food security as explained by John Ndirigwe a breeder from Rwanda Agriculture and animal resource development Board-RAB.

He also added that such meetings are an opportunity for them as they put them in touch and ease the sharing of information and data among them at any time.

Jean Ndirigwe – A breeder from Rwanda

This three years’ project “sweet gains’ was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with a total of $15 million and it will involve different countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Ghana and Ethiopia.

Once the process of genetic improvement of breeding is finished, CIP will handle the varieties to public agriculture boards in every country for being officially released and deliver seed to farmers.











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