By Elias Hakizimana.
In a bid to tap into Agripreneurship potentials as one of solutions to unemployment and food insecurity, youth were urged to make use of available opportunities in Sweet potato farming and their value addition and seed multiplication to develop the sector.
This was revealed during the official opening of three-day continental meeting taking place in Kigali from 15th to 17th May, 2018 where participants gathered from South and North America are discussing how sweet potato seed systems and crop management community of practices can solve the problem of food insecurity.
The meeting that was organized by International potato center and Rwanda Agricultural Board under the theme of “Engaging Youth for Improved Sweet Potato Seed and Root Production” embarked on strategies to ensure that the youth participate in all the value chain from seed systems, crop production and processing.
Rwanda among other participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Libya, Malawi, USA, and Zambia has shown efforts in this sector mainly addressing the problem of unemployment.
The main priority of the meeting is also to identify key challenges youth are facing as gaps to participate in Agriculture in Africa that has a vital role for a mass of population. In the country, youth represent 75% in rural areas and that is where most agricultural activities are undertaken.
Speaking during the meeting, Dr. Charles Bucagu, The Deputy Director General in charge of agricultural research and technology transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said there is need of youth to explore potentials of such a kind of farming in a way that gives a response to unemployment at continental level rather than seeking for jobs.
“In partnership with International Potato Center, he said, we have developed a strong sweet potato seed system that helps providing clean and reliable planting materials to our farmers. We therefore need to sustainably supply these seeds to the needy farmers. This is a real business opportunity we want the youth to exploit,” he said.
Bucagu said that now over 80 farmers are registered as Decentralized Vine Multipliers (DVMs) and less than 23 per cent of them are young generation ranging between 20-35 years old.
He pointed out that figures on vines and roots sales show that 50m per cent of total sales are earned by 23 per cent of young multipliers despite the low percentage of youth involved in sweet potato.
Bucagu further advised ones who are already involved in sweet potato seed value chain to genuinely engage their fellow and colleagues in the sector and work with financial institutions to create more opportunities around sweet potato seed value chain.
“The crop is resilient to climate change such as drought and consumes fewer soil nutrients. It has nutrition values and is a lucrative business for the youth along the whole chain of seed multiplication, growing and processing,” said Dr Jan Low, the regional Sweet potato researcher.
Low added that they provide capacity building through research and technology transfer in developing new varieties, in growing and adding value to the crop.
The international initiative of innovation in sweet potato is a multi-stakeholder partnership program that has set a goal of reaching 10 million households across 17 Sub-Saharan Africa countries in 10 years to ensure that households in Africa have access to food security, nutrition and for a better income.
The role of sweet potatoes is highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO) classifying them in vitamin A that solves a public health problem affecting about one third of children aged 6 to 59 months, with the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa (48 per cent) and South Asia (44 per cent).
WHO states that having households in Rwanda grow the crop will reduce the incidences of vitamin A deficiency.
Elias HAKIZIMANA @theinspirerpubl