The Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Rwanda, Ambassador Michael Ryan, visited Kayonza and Rwamagana districts in Eastern Rwanda on 24th August 2016. He met farmers who are multipliers of the Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) and assessed the general agricultural situation in the region.
In June this year, the EU extended to the government of Rwanda a €200 million budget support grant. The aim of the grant is to assist government programs improve nutrition among rural communities, expand the number of food-secure households, make farmers more efficient in cropping patterns and land use, and to extend the irrigation network to cover more households. During the visit, Ambassador Ryan was accompanied by the Mayor of Kayonza district-Jean Claude Murenzi and Dr. Sindi Kirimi, the Rwanda country Manager of the International Potato Center (CIP) which promotes the adoption of Vitamin A rich OFSP in the Rwandan diet. OFSP is a highly nutritious crop that has health benefits for everyone, especially pregnant women, new mothers and young children. Ambassador Ryan took a keen interest in the impact of this project and wanted to understand the possibilities of upscaling OFSP activities, particularly in areas currently experiencing drought in Rwanda.
Ambassador Ryan interacted with Francine-a beneficiary of the Decentralized Vine Multiplication Program in Rwamagana district-who grows sweetpotato vines and supplies them to other farmers. He was also inspired by the success of Jean Claude, another vine multiplier in Kayonza district, who has purchased a house through the vine multiplication business. Jean Claude affirms having earned up to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs in each season of the agricultural year 2015-2016. This has enabled him to move from his small house into a new modern house worth 3 million Rwandese francs.
The Ambassador also met residents of Rwinkwavu sector in Kayonza who are benefiting from the Scaling up Sweetpotato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) project, which trains them on integrated nutrition practices using OFSP. Following the visit, the Ambassador remarked; “the visit to areas affected by the drought was illuminating. After talking to local officials, representatives of seed and fertilizer importers, farmer federations and above all to farmers themselves, I believe that farmers must be consulted, not instructed, on what to grow.”
The Ambassador noted that farmers are aware of which crops perform well in dry conditions and cannot afford to plant crops that are intolerant to poor rainfall. He added that this would be an enlightening discussion to take up with the ministry of agriculture. Ambassador Ryan pledged the EU’s continued support in Rwanda’s agricultural programs and reiterated that the government should scale distribution of seeds and fertilizer to further boost agricultural productivity.