By Elias Hakizimana
Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in partnership with International Potato Center (CIP) has introduced five new sweet potato varieties that are expected to raise the production to over 10 tones per one hectare.
These varieties currently produce between 20 and 25 tones on sweet potato tubers at RAB’s research stations and over 10 tones when planted by farmers while they give 20 to 30 tones from their origin’s places.
Cecilia and Esther are the new sweet potato varieties that have been introduced in Rwanda from Mozambique while New Kawogo, Otada and Kyabafurika are the new sweet potato varieties from Uganda. They will get local names by farmers themselves according to their experience in terms of quality and productivity.
These varieties have been under RAB trials in Huye/Rubona Research stations over the last three years before they reach the Demonstration plot (Demo plot) which is an advanced step where farmers in Kayonza District, Esatern Province are trying them.
Damien Shumbusha, Head of Sweet Potato Program at RAB explains that the new varieties will be integrated nationwide among sweet potato farmers.
“I went in Uganda and Mozambique to see how productive these varieties are; I found information about their back ground then we decided to bring and try them in Rwanda,” he said.
These varieties are concentrated in beta-carotene, a component in a crop that is converted into vitamin A while in a body.
Shumbusha said that new sweet potato varieties are either bled from ones from neighbor countries after trying them from RAB’s research stations or are locally bled with farmers’ ideas and wishes.
“After various trials, we bleed seed A&B to make a vine through research to find a true seed until the last step to find a vine.” Shumbusha noted.
Apart from being a cash crop as they are transformed into biscuits and breads, these varieties are pest and disease resistant as well as weather friendly.
New planting style
These varieties are planted in ridges and on raw, leaving 3o centimeters between a ridge and another, and 80 cm between a raw and another.
Nshimiyimana said that apart from ensuring land management, the distance between vines helps in feeding the crop with enough nutrients.
It is expected that in four to five months the new varieties will be harvested.
Farmers welcome the new varieties
Jeanne d’Arc Uwemeyimana, a sweet potato farmer and vine multiplier from Kayonza cell, Mukarange Sector in Kayonza District, Eastern Province has been certified to multiply vines of the new sweet potato varieties as the best farmer in the area. She first tried recent released varieties including KABODE, Gihingamukungu, Terimbere and Magereza.
She gives testimony of discrepancy between old and new varieties. “We used to plant two or more vines in one big ridge using a hoe and come back to harvest, now, for the new varieties, we plant one vine into 7.5 cm in-depth. So, it is pleasure for us to have different varieties,” she said.
Jean Claude Nshimiyimana, Research Associate-Agronomy & Seed Systems at CIP said that a research is a requisite for them to avail new sweet potato varieties and these should be tried within three seasons before proceeding by the demonstration phase among farmers.
He said that Rwanda harvests over 1 million tons of sweet potatoes every year. He pledges that CIP will be launching more varieties.
Rwanda Agriculture Board is working on 10 sweet potato vines and trying them countrywide. The initiative complements the PSTA4 for agriculture transformation Agenda by ensuring food security and Agriculture production.