Rwanda: USAID and private sector to boost availability of disease resistant potato seed and new potato varieties

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth Project (PSDAG), officially launched partnerships with the International Potato Center (CIP) and INES Ruhengeri. The launch event took place in Musanze district, on August 1st, 2018.

Under its partnership with PSDAG and in collaboration with the Rwandan Agriculture Board(RAB), CIP is evaluating 15 new varieties of potato plants for Rwandan farmers to grow in different regions across the country, which will replace varieties currently grown by farmers in Rwanda, derived from seeds that are more than 30 years old.

PSDAG partnered with INES Ruhengeri to triple its production capacity of clean vitro (in the glass) plants and mini-tubers,
increasing private distribution of clean seeds to farmers, cooperatives and companies; and to conduct soil analysis in areas where potatoes are to be produced. INES is the first private laboratory in Rwanda to produce potato vitro plants, and sells seeds to seed multipliers who need improved planting materials for their businesses.

In other hand CIP is an International Research program, which provides capacity building support programs to Rwanda Government research operations and local private research institutions while INES owns a local private research unit focused on potatoes seed production.

USAID support to INES and CIP will enable Rwandan farmers to access more high-quality potato seed and diversify the Irish potato varieties on the market, with six new varieties to be released, of which two will be suitable for processing. Through these partnerships, potato seed producers, farmers and processors will also gain a series of technical assistance on best farming practices, post-harvest handling and storage tactics.

The investments made by INES and CIP with USAID’s support have scaled the partners’ operations and widened the coverage of potato seed activities. To date, INES has extended its tissue culture lab and constructed conventional screen houses, accommodating 13,000 vitro plants.

CIP has already collected trial data from 26 sites across the country, produced 38,760 vitro plantlets and worked with 24 lead farmers on seed multiplication. This private sector driven model will respond to the farmers’ growing and unmet need for improved, certified and clean potato seeds, which will increase productivity for potato growers and increase investment in potato processing in Rwanda. ‘’This partnership came at the right time. While we only grow one or two varieties, this means we will have more choices of potato seed varieties in the next coming planting seasons’’ says Thamas Hakizimana, a potato farmer in Kinigi Sector.