The National Agriculture Show is an annual event that exhibits innovations and best practices in the agricultural sector in Rwanda. It is an ideal platform that brings exhibitors and visitors together to exchange information, experiences, and get investment opportunities. The 12th National Agriculture Show was held at Mulindi showground in Gasabo District, Kigali between Thursday 22nd July and Tuesday 27th July 2017. This year’s theme was ‘Adopt climate resilient technologies to improve farmer livelihoods’.
The International Potato Center (CIP), together with partners, exhibited and presented the various activities of the Feed the Future Rwanda Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) for Income and Nutrition Activity financed by USAID, which aims to significantly improve the nutrition, incomes and food production of Rwandan families who are chosen to be beneficiaries of the project. The main objective of participating was to increase awareness among attendees and other exhibitors about CIP activities. Among exhibited materials included information on how to improve nutrition practices and best agricultural practices in relation to OFSP farming that were displayed through various communication materials, and the whole value chain process from the laboratory to the processing units which were used to share skills and knowledge with the intention of spurring social behavioral change.
One of the remarkable events that took place was the feeding of children with a balanced diet featuring Vitamin A rich Orange fleshed sweetpotatoes and high iron beans. Present at the feeding demonstration was. Her Excellency the ambassador of the US, Ms. Barks Ruggles who appreciated what CIP had put together and one can tell from the smiles on her face that she enjoyed serving the children.
The feeding of the children was a joint activity with CIP and Harvestplus to showcase the biofortification of iron beans and OFSP. Dr. Kirimi Sindi, CIP country manager for Rwanda, led his team and the US ambassador in serving the children with a balanced diet, showcasing orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes rich in Vitamin A, and high iron beans. After the children were done eating, they participated in an array of fun games and acrobatics that were scary to some of the onlookers.
Project beneficiaries are mainly young children under the age of five, and pregnant and lactating mothers who are the most vulnerable in the communities. Orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes can be consumed in various ways and different products can be derived from it, which can also be eaten boiled or roasted, or incorporated in the making of bread, mandazi and cakes. Some first time consumers of OFSP products like mandazi are surprised because they think the end product is too sweet to be from sweetpotatoes. Most of the attendees that passed by the CIP stand begun to understand the secret of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes, and the mandazi were a highlight. Activities like the agricultural show ensure that there is spread of awareness on biofortified foods. At the end of the show, a good number of people had learnt that there are OFSP roots and their products and they can spread the word about the goodness and nutrition in OFSP.
The last day of the exhibition saw many of the attendees rushing to the CIP OFSP stand to make sure they were among the lucky ones that went home with the remaining OFSP roots that were being sold. “I must get some of the orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes and try them at home,” Ms. Mukabalisa, one of the visitors to the CIP stand said, as she tasted mandazi – one of the many OFSP products that were at the CIP stand.
The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources and guest of honor, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, in her key note address urged Rwandan farmers to use all available technologies that have potential to enable them to cope with climate change and increase agricultural productivity. The Minister said that the farmers should take advantage of the small scale irrigation scheme, currently subsidized by the government by upto 50%, to improve their farming activities. CIP received a certificate of participation for their contribution to the state’s agricultural industry and community.
The result of this agriculture show is evidence of Rwanda’s progress in increasing agricultural production and value addition. Different agricultural products displayed during the show bear testimony to the big efforts made over the years to transform the sector. For instance, an OFSP root can weigh a kilogram simply due to improved farming practices. Exhibitors commended the Government of Rwanda for organizing the agriculture show that enabled participants and visitors to learn from each other. “Events like this agriculture show are very important, not only for exhibitors, but also for local farmers because they provide a forum to exchange information, experiences, and an opportunity to learn from each other,” said Seraphina, a farmer who grows OFSP in Muhanga district.