The Seed Potato Fund (SPF) has a vision to become the leader in the seed potato value chain in Rwanda. A key issue for its almost 3.500 members is seed quality. Although Irish potato is a staple crop in Rwanda, it faces challenges related to unreliable linkages between value chain actors and seed leakages, mostly at the level of the early seed multiplication process.
That´s why, in July 2019, SPF travelled to the Netherlands to learn firsthand advanced techniques and technologies for seed potato production, handling and storing from Dutch cooperatives and farmers (Agrico, Delhpy, HZPC, LTO, Nedato, Tolsma). While in November SPF received the advice of the Dutch Agripooler Matthijs Gebbink (LTO) to improve the provision of extension services to farmer members.
To continue this learning trajectory and gain a better understanding of the causes behind seed leakages in November 2020 Agriterra organised a two-month study to compare early seed potato multiplication techniques where SPF staff, board and members played a key role.
All these activities led SPF to advocate for seed potato farmers growing minitubers in greenhouses. The result is that, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), greenhouse owners that grow minitubers united to create in 2020 a new farmer-led enterprise known as Early Generation Seed Potato (EGSP) to ensure a stable availability of minitubers and pre-basic seed all year round in Rwanda, with SPF as its main shareholder.
EGSP buys all seed potato minitubers produced in Rwanda and multiplies them into pre-basic seed in a coordinated manner, and then resells them to SPF which is the main buyer of seed potato in the country. This model creates a sustainable market for seed potato growers, reduces seed leakages and improve seed quality and traceability.
Due to land scarcity in Rwanda, EGSP struggled to find land to plant the minitubers harvested in greenhouses. That´s when SPF, thanks to the advocacy skills gained through a Farmers Advocacy Consultation Tool (FACT) training trajectory received in 2018 and 2019, advocated for land to MINAGRI on behalf of EGSP. This resulted in a land lease of 48,3 ha free of rent from the government agency RAB, valued RWF 33,810,000 (EUR 33.047) considering the average rent price of RWF 700,000/ha. Also, this land is in Gishwati forest far from other farming activities that could contaminate the seed fields.
Agriterra business advisors, Agripoolers and RAB experts visiting the land in the middle of Gishwati forest in 2021