The Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) Seed Systems and Crop Management Community of Practice held its 9th consultation meeting on 15-17 May 2018, at the Hotel Villa Portofino Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of the meeting was ‘Engaging youth for improved sweetpotato seed and root production’. The meeting was attended by 55 participants from 12 countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Burkina Faso, the United States and Rwanda). These participants were drawn from organizations such as National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs), Non-government Organisations (NGOs), universities and representatives from youth organisations. The meeting was officially opened by Dr. Charles Bucagu, the Director General, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB). In his remarks, he noted, “Rwanda’s vision for agricultural transformation and development is to achieve food security and attaining per capita income of US$1240 by year 2020. As the average age of farmers in Rwanda is 55 years old, we cannot move forward and faster without working with the most energetic wing of our labour force, the youth”.
The keynote address was delivered by Jean Baptiste Hategekimana, Chairman, Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF). His remarks highlighted ‘Challenges and opportunities: Youth involvement in the agriculture sector in Rwanda’. He noted that “We want the youth to be organized under platforms to ease their access to capacity building training and financing opportunities”. One of the highlights from the meeting was a talk show with youth who shared their motivation and engagement in sweetpotato seed and root enterprises (Paola Giriwanyu, Serge Ganza, Francine Uwibambe, Mubaraka Habimana, and Francoi`s Nshimiyimana and their challenges and opportunities in the sweetpotato seed and root production in Rwanda.
Dr Jan Low presented the progress made by the SPHI. This is a multi-partner, multi-donor initiative that seeks to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes in 10 million African families by 2020 through the effective production and expanded use of sweetpotato in 17 SSA countries. In total, 4,490,100 households reached by January 2018.
The format of the meeting incorporated different approaches that were designed for interactive and discussion on the key topics. Two poster sessions were held on three different themes:
• Theme A: Advances in production, conservation and multiplication of virus-tested planting material (included varietal evaluation).
• Theme B: Management of biotic and abiotic constraints in sweetpotato seed production.
• Theme C : Building gender-responsive seed systems and promotion, marketing and dissemination of quality sweetpotato seed.
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