Rwandan growers need new sweet potato varieties

Grower Jeanne Mukasine hails from the Gakenke district -in northern Rwanda- is a successful agri-preneur. On two of her three-hectare land, Mukasine grows and sells sweet potato  planting material of improved biofortified orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties.

The rest of her land is used to grow pineapples, sugarcane and banana. Mukasine is part of a group of 70 commercial sweet potato  vine multipliers, who have been working the past eight years with the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) and the International Potato Center (CIP) to develop more effective seed systems and sweet potato  varieties.

Initially, Mukasine obtained seed through projects offering free starter material. Having seen the benefits that come with using disease-free vines, she decided to start purchasing quality-guaranteed planting material produced in insect-proof net tunnels or screen houses. She also prefers to diversify her land and have at least two varieties of sweet potato  on her farm instead of just one. This diversity has helped manage and mitigate risks related to disease and climatic conditions, such as drought or excessive rainfall.

Through testing and study, Mukasine grows Kabode and Vita sweet potato  varieties, which were developed in Uganda through the efforts of CIP’s Dr. Robert Mwanga (one of four 2016 World Food Prize awardee) and his team, working closely with National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) researchers.

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