By Aime Ndayisenga
Mr. Dieudonne Dusabimana, a 51-year-old farmer and head of a household of nine, resides in Cyanzarwe Sector of Rubavu District, not far from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His farm is on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains that straddle the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC. His soils are mainly volcanic, still in the weathering process; hence the land is full of stones but rich in minerals.
Having completed only six years of primary education (P 6) Mr. Dusabimana could not get a formal job, so he decided to start farming as his main occupation. He initially began to grow Irish potato because, according to him, “Potato grows well in volcanic soils.” The governemnt of Rwanda promotes six priority crops—maize, rice, cassava, banana, beans, and potato. Because of this he started growing maize and cooking banana, with Irish potato being his prime cash crop. That was until 2016, when an agronomist from the IMBARAGA
Farmer Organization encouraged him to try new varieties of sweetpotato, the orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes (OFSP) kind.
Mr. Dusabimana has more than 30 years of agriculture experience and has been growing local, white-fleshed varieties of sweetpotato for home consumption and selling the surplus at the markets. However, growing the local varieties for sale has not been very profitable. “At first, I confidently ignored what the agronomist was calling good news of growing sweetpotato as a cash crop,’’ said Mr. Dusabimana. “But as he kept on insisting and promising to deliver free planting materials, I accepted to dedicate a small portion of the land to those vines. And this has become a blessing to my family.”
“With a small plot of land estimated at 8 acres (800 square meters), I harvested big and sweetpotato roots which generated 156,000 Rwf ($195) and sold the vines for 220,000 Rwf ($275). Let me assure you, these bundles of vines became like real gold to my family. With the money earned, I was able to pay back the loan I owed the bank. I used the rest of the money to buy more land to expand my farm,” said Mr. Dusabimana enthusiastically.
Mr. Dusabimana got vines as a beneficiary of the Feed the Future Rwanda: Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato project in June 2016. He was one of the target beneficiaries having children under 5 in his household. The project targets these households as part of the nutrition focus to ensure that the children have adequate source of vitamin A-rich OFSP from their farms.
The project also trains households on the benefits of OFSP for their health to combat vitamin A deficiency and improve household nutrition through a diversified diet. Armed with his new knowledge and income potential, in addition to the new piece of land he had aquired from the sale of vine and roots, Mr. Dusabimana has increased the land area allocated to OFSP to produce more roots and vines for family consumption as well as for selling to the market
With the expansion of his swetpotato field, he aims to ultimately supply roots to the nearest high school canteen, which he has already contacted. He also hopes to sell good quality vines to local and international NGOs. There is a high demand for the OFSP vines and big opportunities for expanding his work and impact. Just as the vines of OFSP multiply to create more vines and more roots, the investment of Feed the Future OFSP activity will continue to multiply, creating new opportunities for wealth and health for Mr. Dusabimana, his family, his community, and his country.