Sweetpotato seed system practitioners met in Kigali, Rwanda on April 28 – 29, 2015 to share experiences on sustainable production of quality sweetpotato planting material. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Sweetpotato Seed Systems Community of Practice (CoP) and brought together forty participants from 11 countries, namely: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
The CoP is a platform within the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) aimed at facilitating networking, exchange of experiences and learning in order to generate new knowledge about how to tackle crucial constraints in sweetpotato seed systems across sub-Saharan Africa.
The meeting, whose theme was ‘the Business Case for Sweetpotato Seed’, sought to trigger discussions that would lead to an understanding of the financial aspects of sweetpotato seed multiplication and development of business plans. Participants got an opportunity to share updates on sustainable pre-basic seed production and productivity-enhancing technologies such as sand hydroponics, net tunnels and Triple S (Sand, Storage and Sprouting).
While opening the meeting, the Director General of Rwanda Agricultural Bureau, Dr. Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda, noted the importance of quality seed in successful agricultural production. “A functioning sweetpotato seed system will contribute towards food security and income generation especially for female farmers who are the majority growers of the crop,” he said. The Director General highlighted quality assurance and the need for developing seed standards but cautioned against over-regulation and bureaucracy that could stifle emerging seed entrepreneurs.
This was the third sweetpotato seed systems consultation since 2012. It is expected that regular exchange of ideas (physical and online) among CoP members will lead to increased visibility and spread of good sweetpotato seed system technologies and practices across the Eastern, Western and Southern African sub-regions. Sweetpotato is an important food crop in all these regions but production is constrained by limited supply of quality planting materials. This is compounded by high prevalence of viruses in single or complex infections and insect pests such as weevils (Cylas punctolis).
There is need to develop/identify and implement low cost and sustainable options for production of clean planting materials. This will require understanding farmers’ willingness to invest in clean planting materials and efficient coordination of demand and supply. Participants noted the importance of creating awareness among farmers about the benefits of clean planting material and promoting sweetpotato as a priority crop for health, nutrition and food security. This will contribute towards increased demand for quality planting materials.
To ensure regular communication and information sharing the CoP registered a Google Groups D-List (firstname.lastname@example.org) which would facilitate online discussions. Four topics have so far been discussed using the D-List. These are:
- The use of positive and negative selection in the production of clean planting material
- Seed degeneration through accumulation of virus diseases and the potential of reversion in some varieties
- Phytosanitation practices and seed system innovations
- Packing and transporting sweetpotato cuttings
In addition to the D-List, CoP members and other stakeholders can share information and exchange ideas on sweetpotato seed systems and other production practices at the www.sweetpotatoknowledge.org .