FFA GO: Africa – July 27, 2011

Sweet Potatoes

By Team B

Today started off as the whole team traveled to CRS where we got to enjoy Joslyn giving a presentation on gender equality in agriculture within the country. Rwanda is making great efforts to engage both women and men within their agriculture industry. In fact, many of the farmer groups have to have at least 2 women in them, and most times they are in the top leadership positions. Women are very involved in the production of subsistence crops, while men are more prone to work with cash crops.

We spilt into our two teams, said our goodbyes, and traveled to the Northern Province to visit sweet potato farmers. This particular group was made up of 24 members, 22 women and 2 men. They had three plots, one for multiplication, one for demonstration, and one for production.  We learned that the white variety of the sweet potato is preferred by the consumer as a raw product, while the orange variety, Cacearpedo, is processed into value added products such as cakes and bread. Currently, they are working with China to create a processing facility for sweet potato juice to increase the market areas. Today was Ashley’s lucky day when she found out it was harvesting time at this particular plot, and got to harvest her first orange sweet potato by hand.

After trying our hand at harvesting, we visited a co-op of all women sweet potato farmers where we were met by a monsoon and hail!! After walking up hill both ways and seeking shelter in a Rwandan house, we began to understand the challenges that these women face in production, harvesting, and marketing.  Their biggest two challenges were diseases and climate change from the rainy season to the dry season.  We even got to share some information about our home states agriculture production and our culture.

After a quick drive, we stopped at Urugaga Imbaraga where they train farmers on production methods and technology that all farmers can understand and implement all while being cost effective. There were all types of technologies from potato sorters and graders to corn huskers. These simple technologies are easily handmade and very efficient for the size of production in the area. Rwanda is growing by leaps and bounds as they introduce new technology to help farmers in all stages of production from planting to getting the products to market.

We are headed to the juice factory and more sweet potato testing plots tomorrow.

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