June 19, 2024

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Seeding Change: Empowering Rwanda’s Seed Potato Industry with PASTTA II

International Potato Center (CIP) in collaboration with Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resource Board (RAB) and Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) through support of USAID organized the seed potato stakeholders consultative workshop for the Partnership for Seed Technology Transfer in Africa (PASTTA II) project, and enhancing uptake of improved potato varieties through quality seed potato production and delivery mechanisms in Rwanda.

The event was held in Kigali on Tuesday, November 28th, 2023, with the objective of reviewing the accomplishments of the project in year 1 (October 2022 – September 2023), sharing and validating the findings of the national seed potato needs assessment study, and jointly planning for activities in year 2.

According to Dr. Florence UWAMAHORO, Deputy Director General in charge of Agriculture Development at the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board (RAB), the lack of structured, formalized, and centralized seed potato data and information management systems creates a loophole in the management of seed potato data. This is because the data is currently kept by individual staff in the seed division and private companies/multipliers.

She said, “More than 90% of potato farmers use farmer-saved seeds of poor quality, resulting in lower potato yields compared to the expected yield. We need professionals in seed production.”

Dr. Clement URINZWENIMANA, from CIP, emphasized the significance of potato in Rwanda by highlighting its importance as both a staple food and a cash crop in the country.

He noted that potato has rapid growth in Production: From 75,284 ha in 2012 to 116,607 ha in 2022, with Production of 846,184 tonnes in 2017 to 1,330,000 tonnes in 2021(MINAGRI, 2022).

Potato is mainly grown in Buberuka highlands covering Gicumbi, Rulindo and Burera districts, Virunga agro-ecological zone covering Musanze, Nyabihu and Rubavu districts, and Congo Nile Watershed Divine covering Ngororero, Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamagabe and Nyaruguru districts ((NISR, 2017, 2018,2019,2020,2021 and 2022).

Clement discussed the evaluation of the current state of seed potato production, which included examining the roles of key stakeholders in terms of producing various generations of seed potatoes, their ability to produce different classes of seed potatoes, and their provision of support services to seed producers. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of developing a plan to synchronize seed potato production among different actors through sector coordination in order to align the supply and demand of seed potatoes.

He shared the key findings of the assessment, highlighting the challenges the farmers met which include: low involvement in variety development (71%), Varieties with red skin colour are mostly preferred by consumers, and adoption of varieties that are not on the list of released potato varieties in Rwanda (Rwangume, Peko, Rutuku, Rwasaki, Kurusenke).

He explained that “Early generation and certified seed potato production involve five tissue culture labs for the production of in vitro plantlets.”

“These labs include those located in RAB Musanze, RAB Rubona, INES, CAVM/SPF, and AGRISEEDS.”

RAB is responsible for producing 70% of the total plantlet production, while private laboratories such as INES (13%) and Agriseeds (8%) have a lower operational capacity.

According to Mr. Clement “The reason for this low capacity is attributed to a shortage of buyers for the in vitro plantlets due to an unstructured market.”

He stated that the private plantlet producers have expressed concern over the sale of subsidized plantlets from RAB, as the subsidy does not apply to private potato tissue culture. The high production costs for private plantlets exacerbate the negative impact on the sustainability of the seed potato industry.

“The 67 facilities for minituber production (5 aeroponic screenhouses, 61 conventional screenhouses), only 46 (69%) are operational. The dysfunctionality attributed to factors, such as the high cost of inputs, limited financial resources for minor and major rehabilitation, and the presence of an unstructured market for minitubers and this led to low productivity.” He explained.

Moreover, Clement highlighted the results of seed potato storage, distribution and marketing; lack of information sharing channels, disappearance of potato seeds which sold for consumption and the market price of where potatoes from specific varieties positively affects farmers’ adoption and low willingness of financial institutions to support seed potato sector.

He said on the Potato value chain coordination, The National Seed Association of Rwanda (NSAR) and NSC are the two main forums.

“Over 60% of interviewed seed potato multipliers are not members of the (NSAR) or NSC, and there is inadequate countrywide plan of seed potato multiplication across all level.” He added.

“The demand for Potatoes is always driven by increasing population and its inherent characteristics but there is a loss of opportunity. Much of the yield gaps currently constraining productivity in the country is attributed to poor quality seed.” He said

He concluded recommending, maximize seed potato productivity across the seed categories. “There is low productivity at all potato seed potato value chain production levels. The 77.1% of minituber producers interviewed, reported the average productivity ranges between 4 and 7 minitubers/plantlets in conventional screenhouse. The seed producers attributed this low productivity to inefficient seed potato production techniques.” Mr. Clement concludes.

During her intervention, Dr. Dinah Borus, Scientist/PASTTA2 leader, revealed the strategic plan for Year 2 (2024); key activities, deliverables and timeline.

She noted the overall objective of the project is to enhance the promotion and uptake of new varieties through novel improvements in quality seed potato production capacity and delivery mechanisms in Rwanda.

She said, “We have the objective of enhanced capacity of public and private sector to produce seed potatoes of climate-smart, pest, and disease tolerant, and market demanded potato varieties disease-tolerant varieties.”

She addressed the key output of public and private seed producers adding that they have increased their capacity to provide timely quality seed, and market -demanded potato varieties at an affordable cost.

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