The government of Rwanda is looking to increase potato production by expanding the area where the potato crop will be planted on a 900 hectare area upcountry.
Potatoes are not among 10 selected crops to be grown a wider area of Rwanda like beans, Irish potatoes, maize, rice, wheat, vegetables, cassava, soya, fresh fruits and banana.
Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal resources told Bwiza.com that potatoes are not among the selected crops on the aforementioned list because they still lack needed standards even though they can change at any time.
However, its absence from the selected crops does not stop it from being grown on different fields from hillsides in the country and are obviously helping people from suffering hunger, while the government recognizes their value although they are not reserved an equal area to grow them like that other crops which are easy to store.
In bid to promote the potato growth, the government, in collaboration with different development partners, has provided 14 million pieces of potato seed in 18 different yellow potato growing districts, which are used in manufacturing biscuits, bread and andazi.
To support this policy, a 16th Annual International potato conference is being held in Rwanda since May 15th, and was organized by the Government in collaboration with Internationl Potato Center-CIP, looking to study how the potato crop can be increasingly multiplied as soon as possible, as one of the prior solutions to climate change, health protection and the distribution of a new potato crop.
Dr Cyubahiro Marc Bagabe, the Director General of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) insists potatoes play a great role on Rwandan community’s everyday lives as they are grown on a balanced area depending on the crop’s features in addition to being crucial in fighting hunger.
He said, “ potatoes have always been given value but you cannot guarantee them a wider area like the one reserved for rice or maize plantation, which can be exported ….but potatoes are rarely exported because they are too heavy and cannot simply be stored. Although they are very important and are harvested after a very short time, they do not need big area of plantation”
Potatoes are rarely exported but Dr Cyubahiro says the government is in process of finding the market for them.
In a bid for improved potato seed multiplication at a maximum speed, the government is looking for a much faster way to multiply them in as short time as possible while the process would take more between five and eight years comparing to the new one which is expected to take between three and four years.
The m multiplication process will be done using crop ADN approach ccording to Dr Craig Yencho, an American university crop multiplication lecturer, who is in charge of the potato crop multiplication policy
On Rwanda’s side, Rwf 100 million will be budgeted to conduct researches on a varity of crops and it is expected that the budget will be increased to Rwf 2 billion next year, and Rwf 200 million of which will used on potato-based research.
One of the factors that favor more focus on potatoes is that they are not simply attacked by different crop diseases and are simple to cure in case they are attacked, by only using non- damaging fertilizers.
So far, four types of potatoes are being grown in Rwanda which are not simply attacked by diseases, except when they are rotten or attacked.
The meeting was attended by different researchers, including those who recently scooped World Food Prize 2016, for their role in crop promotion through their research. They include Ugandan researcher Dr Robert Mwanga who kept insisting that potato crops should be taken good care of as they are crucial in fighting hunger.
The meeting participants are expected to conduct a visit tour at Rwanda Agriculture Board/ Rubona l in Huye District to experience how potato seeds are multiplied through the research being conducted so far.
Rwanda is yet to have an improved and standardized potato crop manufacture, like making different products out of potatoes.
Although they are used in manufacturing biscuits, bread and andazi, still they cannot replace the flour which is needed on the local market at 70 per cent while potatoes occupy 30 per cent.