Potatoes are cultivated across Rwanda and they are growing in popularity. The majority of the crop is produced in the northwestern region of the country in the districts of Burera, Musanze, Nyabihu, and Rubavu. For this reason, the International Potato Center (CIP) and Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) are focusing their efforts in this area to release varieties that are high-yielding, pest and disease resistant, and climate-resilient.
But these steps are not sufficient to overcome the low potato yields faced by Rwandan farmers. Fertilizer use continues to be sub-optimal among potato farmers who often use mineral fertilizers that are subsidized by the government. Current fertilizer recommendations in Rwanda are crop-specific but are not tailored to different soil types, farm types, or field histories.
Besides this, the recommendations used by farmers are based on research and advice now more than 30 years old. This lack of specificity often leads to under- and overuse of fertilizers, which leads to lower yields and a loss of revenue to farmers.
Better targeted and appropriate use of fertilizer based on field types could also produce environmental benefits by minimizing the loss of nutrients to the environment and add efficiency to the government’s fertilizer subsidy program. To address this, CIP, RAB, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the One Acre fund have partnered to support and launch a digital platform called AKILIMO that helps farmers and extension workers develop tailored fertilizer recommendations.