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ORANGE-FLESHED SWEETPOTATO: IMPROVING LIVES IN RWANDA

 

Dominique in one of his plots in Gatare village, Ngororero sector. (Photo By Donata.K)

“I can now comfortably take care of my family.  Before, my children were not attending primary school because the family could not afford to pay school fees. The children were malnourished being unable to afford two meals a day. But now things have changed!” says Dominique.

Harerimana Dominique is a 35-year-old farmer who lives in Gatare village, Ngororero District in the western province of Rwanda. He is married and has five children. As most dwellers of the village, his family livelihood is entirely dependent on agriculture.

In 2016, International Potato Center (CIP) Rwanda, through the Feed the Future Rwanda Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) for Income and Nutrition Activity project, started working with farmers to promote the production of orange-fleshed sweetpotato and improve nutrition. Dominique was among the farmers trained on vine production, different varieties, benefits of orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) and pest control methods. Dominique decided to implement what he had learnt. He knew he wanted to be a Decentralized Vine Multiplier (DVM).

In the same year, 2016, on his less than a hectare plot he started the OFSP vine multiplication. He could sell his produce to the local market and the neighbors. Dominique managed to sell 360 kilograms at Rwf 150 earning him Rwf 54,000. International Potato Center continued to support Dominique through linking him to buyers of both vines and roots and other additional training on post-harvest handling as well as OFSP value addition.  His income increased but he could no longer meet the demand. Through his savings from the vine business, in two years he bought 4 hectares of land. Dominique set aside two hectares specifically for Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato vines and roots production. The other two hectares he grows other crops.

This increased his production and was able to meet the demand from local NGOs, local farmers, nutrition-oriented cooperatives and OFSP roots to schools in his area. To ensure supply of clean planting materials, Dominique built 4 aphid net tunnels in one of his plots where he conserves Kabode, Vita, Gihingamukungu and Terimbere varieties from pests and diseases.

The aphid net tunnels help Dominique to produce clean planting material free from pests and diseases (Photo By Donata.K).

“My biggest market for the vines is from local NGOs, local farmers and nutrition-oriented cooperatives and I also sell OFSP roots to schools in my area,” he said.

Between the year 2017 and 2018, Dominique has sold vine cutting worth over 3.70 million Rwanda Franc ($4169.53) and to about 2.5 million Rwanda Franc ($2817.25) from roots compared to his sales of Rwf 54,000 in 2016.

With the income, has been able to take his four children to good schools and provide with ease for his family. He has managed to also construct a commercial house in the nearby business center and bought two dairy cows that contribute to the sustainability of his family.

From his proceeds of selling orange-fleshed sweetpotato vines and roots income, Dominque was able to educate his children. “I always have some money in my account to run my family’s needs and I am grateful to the Feed the Future OFSP for incomes and nutrition project that enabled me to acquire the first batch of vines two years ago,” he added. 

Dominique has also been involved in community education on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. During the district exhibitions, he is called to teach the community on the benefits of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes. Its nutrition value, how to plant the vines and cooking demonstration on the different sweet potato recipes. It is now common in his area to prepare the nutritious sweet potato leaves from the famous varieties of Kabode and Vita. He also attends farm exhibitions to demonstrate to other farmers on the vine production.

In one of the schools with the school feeding programme where Dominique supplies his orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes, Se’ Jerome Primary school, the head teacher said they have seen cases of malnutrition and school absenteeism among the children go down. Children like the sweetness in the sweet potatoes. “We have seen the children performance increase in their school work. The vitamin A orange-fleshed sweetpotato nutritional benefit is surely seen in the children,” said Jean-Paul Birimwabagabo, the headteacher.

Children eating a balanced diet in one of the cooking demonstrations in Ngororero

The district agronomist, Mr. Leonidas Dusabimana, Ngororero district recognized Dominque’s great contribution in the fight against malnutrition and encouraged him to keep up the good work. “In Ngororero district, we have been facing a big challenge of high malnutrition cases but at the end of last year, many sectors registered a reduction in malnutrition with about 11,000 households with children who are no longer malnourished.

Feed the Future Rwanda Orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) for Income and Nutrition Activity is a three-year project was started in 2016 with an aim to promote increase smallholder farmer’s productivity, incomes and improve nutrition among children under 5 years, lactating/pregnant mothers. The project covers 12 African countries. So far, the project has reached 200,000 farmers in Rwanda and for the next two months of the FTF project extension in Rwanda, more efforts have been directed to establishing more awareness of the Orange-fleshed sweetpotato across the country through creating more links between farmers and buyers.  There is also a drive to introduce the OFSP roots to more supermarkets, roadside markets and carrying out trainings on processing so as to leave behind skills within potential processors on how to add value the OFSP crop.

About Donata Kiiza

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One comment

  1. This is a wonderful value-add story. Would be interested in exploring ways of growing the yellow fleshed sweet potato on the slopes of the Aberdare forest which is a rather cold environment. Possible?

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