By Elias Hakizimana.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) inaugurated five modern potato seed warehouses worth Rwf 460 million in West and Northern Provinces of Rwanda plus one Aeroponic Irish potato greenhouse worth Rwf 45 million to tackle shortage of seeds facing farmers.
The storage facilities will be managed by Seed Potato Fund — SPF-Joint ventures and will serve as storage facilities for quality Irish potato seeds and each of them has capacity to store 500 tonnes.
65 percent of these funds used for the warehouses was provided by PASP Project, 5% from multipliers themselves and 70% provided by SPF-Joint ventures.
The five warehouses were all launched on June 13, 2018. One is in Rubavu District in Western Province, the other in Nyabihu District and three more in Musanze District while the Aeroponic greenhouse was launched in Burera District in Gahunga Sector.
The State Minister for agriculture Fulgence Nsengiyumva who officially inaugurated these facilities said that the initiative was in line with bridging the gap of seed supply that was rampant since 2015 and adversely affecting farmers and the crop productivity.
“We first trained farmers to intensify the seeds and thought of sustainable solutions to store them. We managed to find a project in MINAGRI to help them build the warehouses. Each warehouse is able to store 500 tonnes at every season and as these areas use to harvest three times a year one warehouse can store 1,500 tonnes per year,” Nsengiyumva said.
Nsengiyumva observed that seeds multipliers used to sell them to people as food after some months in store as they wanted to get money to repay bank loans, or carry on potato business, but the Ministry can buy these seeds from the multipliers to store them in ware houses.
Underscoring the impact of seed shortage, the state minister said, farmers used to plant few and poor quality seeds, pointing out that with the newly launched facilities, they will be able to buy them close to them from these warehouses.
“We believe in next few years we will manage to satisfy our farmers with enough Irish potato seeds,” he said.
Quality irish potato seeds can be used three to four times without losing the quality. Farmers were given trained youth in seed quality to follow up on productivity and inform the ministry when necessary to renew the seeds. Quality seeds will motivate farmers to increase production for the market, according to Nsengiyumva.
“The good news is that Rwanda’s agriculture policy is to produce for market, a farmer will manage to get good money because of quality yield, our neighbour countries will manage to buy the mini-tubers from that aeroponic. We also target to sell irish potatoes outside the country,” Nsengiyumva noted.
Aeroponic greenhouse technology
Evariste Nsabimana, an Aeroponic Specialist in building and monitoring the Aeroponic greenhouses at SPF-Joint Ventures IKIGEGA said the greenhouses will support Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in seed intensification.
He said the mini-tubers from the greenhouses provide quality seeds for farmers in every six months.
According to SPF-Joint Ventures, one kilo of Kinigi Irish potato seed will cost Rwf450 while the white variety will cost Rwf 400.
Salomon Mbarushimana, president of Seed Potato Fund (SPF-Joint Ventures) said that Rwanda needs 120,000 tonnes of irish potato seeds while available quantity is only at 25 percent.
Some of sponsors of SPF-Joint ventures include RAB, USAID, PASP, FAO. Etc. “We plan to increase the demand at 50 percent in next two to three seasons in partnership with our partners and we expect to satisfy everyone who needs quality seeds by 2021,” Mbarushimana said.
“Kinigi”, “Kirundo”, “Twihaze” or “tireez 58” and “Kuruza” are among quality irish potato seed varieties produced by SPF-Joint ventures and are planted in different areas following the research on soil productivity.
SPF-Joint ventures has 3016 members working in 10 districts that produce irish potatoes in Rwanda.