Drocella Yadukijije, a widow had to beg for clothing and food to survive, her hope to live was glowing dimly in a life full of distress, she had concluded nothing out of farming-since it’s what she can do will save her, but little did she know that deep in the tuber of an Orange fresh Sweet potato lies her future.
“Since I started growing Orange fresh Sweet potatoes, I have been able to feed my family and get income to buy clothing and save for my children’s school fees. Am now able to employ other women so that they can also earn something for their families,” She said smilingly.
But for a common crop like the orange fresh sweet potato to transform the life of Yadukijije and other farmers growing it is another food for thought. The crop rich in Vitamin A paved its way to the market after it became the main raw material in most food products at Sina Gerard Enterprise Urwibutso- fetching favourable prices.
From Akarabo biscuits that are exported to doughnuts and bread that are on high demand on the local market as well as other products which have the crop as part of the ingredients, the orange fresh potato continues to influence value addition in locally produced products, which helps the country cut down food imports as well as fetch foreign exchange through exports.
“When I went to America, I was so curious to know what type of food Americans eat because you hear they have made great discoveries and innovations, but when I checked in food stores, I was shocked to find its the sweet potatoes we have back home,” Sina Gerard, founder Enterprise Urwibutso said.
The difference, Sina says was, they were able to add value through processing and make many products out of it, “this is what made me think of making biscuits out of the Orange fresh sweet potatoes,” he added.
Sina who boosts of several food products and fast moving goods that have become household brands decided to start producing products out of the sweet potatoes and with the support of African Potato Association(International centre for potato) he then organised and supported farmers with assurance of ready market for their produce.
“We at enterprise Sina Gerard Urwibutso see Orange fresh sweet potatoes as a crop that country and Rwandan can rely on for development and it’s not only for income but also provides vitamin A which increases immunity for the body.
To further strengthen the value chain mainly in promoting standards and increasing production, the Sina Gerard enterprise signed contracts with farmers.
“We have also seen that the processor has variety of products that he is making from Orange fresh Sweet Potatoes which is also very important because what we have been lacking in Africa is not the variety but the availability and affordability of the foods,” said Hamid Salam Turay, Program Manager Hellen Keller International – Sierra Leone
This provided confidence for market as well as supporting farmers to avoid harvest losses and maintain safety and standards for the crop.
“We are hopeful that all those in the value chain of orange sweet potatoes will benefit as we are planning to expand our production and also include juice made out of Sweet potatoes,” he told delegates who had visited his factory at Nyirangrama in Rulindo district.
The delegates who included experts, scientists, policy makers, researchers and government officials were attending the four day 11th triennial conference 2019 for Africa Potato Association that began on 26th August in Kigali.
“What I have learnt specifically from Rwanda is the linkages, the linkages between the producers, marketers and farmers,” said Beatrice Nyamwamu, from Kenya.
The association’s objective is to promote production and utilization of potato and sweet potato for food and nutrition security in Africa as well as facilitating knowledge sharing by bringing together diverse stakeholders in the potato sector through the continent.
“During our field tour, we have visited farmers growing Orange fresh sweet potatoes and this showed how Rwanda has taken strides in promoting the crop, which is remarkable,” said Robert Mwanga- In-charge Eastern Africa-International Potato Centre based in Uganda.
He noted that although sweet potato is a common crop, value addition is making it more important thus making farmers earn incomes as it is creating a stable reliable market.
“Such efforts therefore targets uplift the livelihoods of people, with the processor-Sina Gerard (Enterprise Urwibutso) processing different products like biscuits from the sweet potatoes, it is adding more value to the crop,” he added.
Mulindwa Prosper Vice Mayor in charge of finance and Economic affairs said that private sector players such as Sina Gerard investing in agriculture value chain helps government to improve people’s livelihoods while also supporting the country’s economy to be self reliant.
“Efforts such as this helps the government achieve its broader vision of growing into a middle income economy. We appreciate Sina’s support to provide market for farmers and also promote made in Rwanda campaign through adding value to our locally produced products,” he added.
The delegates were impressed by the innovation at the Enterprise Urwibutso mainly in adding value to agricultural produces such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, bananas which provides yet another hope that the country’s largest sector is likely to propel the economy to middle income through employment. The sector currently employs around 80 percent of the country’s population.
In Rwanda, the project to promote the Orange fresh Sweet Potatoes originally from US funded by USAID has is worth $ 4 million dollars.