Potato Week (15 – 18 November 2022 in Rwanda)
Promoting innovation and technology to stop the seed potato leak
The Potato Week is an annual event of actors in the Potato value chain from the Great Lakes Region. Supported by Agriterra, this is a space of celebrating achievements, exchanging skills, innovation, technologies, techniques, and ideas on potato Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and marketing. The event started in 2010 in Rwanda and afterwards, this event got a regional character where actors from neighbouring countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Uganda were joining.
For this year 2022, the Potato Week took place in Musanze District in republic of Rwanda where the Rwandan Potato Stakeholders Platform (RPSP), including Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources with its partners such as Agriterra, Imbaraga farmers’ organisation in Rwanda and Seed Potato Fund Joint Ventures Ltd (SPF-IKIGEGA) were among the organisers. This was an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the great achievements in the potato value chain such as SPF potato hub, launching Farmers’ Potato Academy and new developed potato materials, exhibition of farmers’ achievements and eventually sharing encountered challenges while proposing the innovative and resilient solutions in the potato sector faced by potato farmers in different potato growing zones of Rwanda. Moreover, experience sharing was also involving potato growers in the Great Lakes region.
The main objective of the event was to mobilise farmers to adopt new technologies by enhancing their skills and awareness on new innovations that will help them to become self-resilient in potato production by stopping seed potato leak, increase the use of improved potato seeds as well as adopting Climate Smart Agriculture practices. The seed potato leak was particularly a discussion on the agenda. In the view of Agriterra, farmers’ organisations have an important role to play in facilitating the “flow” of seed potatoes. “Flow” requires infrastructure, land, planning, quality control and collaboration.The “seed leak” refers to quality seed potatoes not reaching their full multiplication potential because mother tubers “leak away” from the seed potato chain to the informal system or towards consumption markets.
The Potato Week of 2022 explored innovations and technologies which could be used to help in stop of the seed leak, on a technical level as well as on an institutional level. In the Rwandan context, farmers’ organisations have taken the responsibility to increase volumes, with the realisation of the aeroponic minituber production facility of SPF as main example, next to various other private initiatives. The Mega Aeroponic screen house of SPF-Ikigega is contributing to the increase on volume of quality early generation seed potatoes for securing a good “flow”. SPF-Ikigega is also playing a big role in buying and reselling seed potatoes for avoiding them being taken to the consumption market by farmers.
The Potato Week 2022 was officially opened by Hon Minister of State for the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda Dr. Ildephonse Musafiri. The event was attended by Potato Farmers, farmers ’organisations and government officials such as Governor of Northern Province Dr. Dancille Nyirarugero, delegation from Musanze District, representatives of Rwanda Defence Force and National Police in Rwanda. The embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rwanda was represented and also other private partners and stakeholders. Besides Rwanda, delegations of farmers and professionals from DRC Burundi, Uganda, The Netherlands and France joined fellow Rwandan farmers and value chain actors and supporters during this event.
The event was marked by several activities including exhibitions, launch of potato training materials, field visits to the public and private seed potato production facilities and technologies, open fields at Farmers Potato Academy, Horeco fields, potato processing facility (Holland Fair Food) known as Winnaz. Last but not least several topics were discussed through panel discussions.
- The situation and state of potato production in each of represented countries.
- Promoting technologies in potato production, Food security and Nutritional value of tubers (Kcal/ha).
- Quality promotion and disease control.
- Issues pertaining to, and how to improve transborder potato trading.
- Outreach progrmme under Agricultural Universities towards youth involvement in potato value chain.
- How to improve farmers’ access to finance and insurance.
Resolutions and recommendations
Participants applauded the effort that the government of Rwanda has put into the development of potato sector and were resolute to adopt technologies that facilitate and increase the volume and flow of seed potatoes within their respective countries.
Soil conservation methods, including crop rotation and application of organic fertilizers, formal seeds usage, and pest and disease control in seed and ware potatoes were among the resolutions of farmers at the end of the potato week event. To address multiple challenges discussed, however, farmers presented the following requests to the public and private sector actors:
- undertake research of new potato varieties with a special focus on nutrition value and mineral content of Zinc and Iron.
- (for researchers:) focus primarily on diseases proliferating in the soil.
- promote partnerships between farmers' organisations and research centers with the aim of linking the challenges encountered in potato production to research.
- strenghten the role of universities in supporting implementation of technology and collaboration with farmers
- (for financial institutions:) facilitate the granting of loans by accelerating the release period but also by lowering the interest rate.
The Potato Week was a success, not only in its preparation and execution, but also in the way that it has inspired farmers to take accountability and responsibility of the development of the potato value chain and provided space for dialogue between them and private and public sector actors supporting the potato value chain. It was also an opportunity for participants to witness and learn from the available infrastructures and technologies in the potato sector in Rwanda.