Farmers upbeat over new potato varieties

Potato farmers at work in Musanze District. Sam Ngendahimana.

Irish potato farmers can breathe a sigh of relief after Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) introduced new potato varieties, which are heat resistant.

The Board, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on Wednesday launched the first batch of six new potato varieties out of 21 clones, which are under trial in Musanze District.

According to RAB officials, the varieties launched can also be grown in warm mid-altitude areas like Eastern Province.

The varieties that have so far been in use only thrive in high land areas.

“The idea behind this exercise is to be able to offer the farmers a wide-range of varieties meant for different purposes, not only farmers but also consumers and other users, including the processing plants, which are looking for varieties that respond to their needs,” Dr Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director General of RAB in charge of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer told The New Times.

Farmers welcomed the new varieties, saying it would help them scale up the quantity and quality of potatoes as opposed to previously when they were required to import Irish potato seeds due to lack of quality seeds on the local market.

“The new clones should help us to constantly increase the produce. During the trial phase we were harvesting big potatoes,” said Jean Habimana, a farmer from Kinigi Sector in Musanze District.

Meanwhile, USAID also initiated a partnership with INES Ruhengeri – an institute of applied sciences, which owns a local private research unit focused on potatoes seed production – to increase the quantity and quality of potato vitro plants and mini tubers.

Kevin Armstrong, the USAID deputy mission in Rwanda, said that partnering with research institutions will help farmers increase their produce and therefore food security.

“It’s our hope that this partnership will not only help in getting money from their produce but also providing food for Rwandans,” he noted.

The partnership will increase private distribution of clean seeds to farmers, cooperatives and companies and to conduct soil analyses in areas where potatoes are to be produced, according to officials.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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