The National Agricultural Export Development Board in collaboration with US-based research partners have launched a three-year drive aimed at enhancing production of quality coffee in the African Great Lakes region through research and policy support.
Dubbed, Africa Great Lakes Coffee Programme (AGLC), the initiative is expected to dramatically reduce the effects of the Antestia bug, which is thought to cause potato taste defect (PTD), so as to raise farm-level productivity.
Announcing the initiative in Kigali, yesterday, officials said the initiative is expected to improve the incomes of smallholder farmers and help to sustain the Great Lakes region’s reputation for producing some of the highest quality coffee in the world.
Rwanda exported at least 17,000 tonnes of coffee last year, with export production projected to increase to 20,000 tonnes next year.
However, production in recent years has faced various challenges, including the potato taste defect, which affects coffee exports.
But speaking at the meeting, Amb. George Kayonga, the chief executive officer of National Agricultural Export Development Board, said several efforts are being undertaken to tackle the potato taste defect.
“We want to produce high quality coffee. We are looking for tangible measures to reduce Antestia bug responsible for the potato taste defect which affects coffee export,” he told The New Times.
Martin Onger, the director of research and post graduate studies at the University of Rwanda’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, said UR has been doing research aimed to help farmers find affordable and sustainable remedies to PTD control.
The initiative is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in conjunction with the Michigan State University (MSU).
The project integrates applied research, farmer capacity building and policy engagement to raise farm-level productivity.
Coffee provides millions of smallholder families in Africa’s Great Lakes region with their primary source of income.
Despite this growth, the region’s coffee yields remain low compared to those of international competitors.
Yesterday, different research partners committed to providing training to coffee growers with different ways to overcome the coffee defect.
“The programme will train coffee growers to know how PTD could be detected when they smell it and equip them with capacity to control and improve coffee yields measurably to avoid facing a big loss at the market due to bad reputation,” said Dan Clay, a researcher from Michigan State University.
Rwandan and US government officials and key partners want to come up with a shared understanding of the project’s goals, activities, and desired outcomes after listening to sector players.