Processing Plant and Sweet Potato Fields
By Team B (Tom, Ashley and Elizabeth)
We begin our last day working with farmers in a field in the Northern Province with a group of women sweet potato farmers. We traversed a river, for real, to the multiplication plot. We saw how the women carried the manure from their homes to the field in the marsh area, applied it to the ground and then formed rows of soil. Finally they add the sweet potato cuttings to produce the tuber/root. The multiplication plot is full of rows 80 centimeters apart with the cuttings/veins staged 30 centimeters apart. They are kept there to grow for two months before they are moved to the production plot. They plant maize or cabbage after they move the plants farther up the hill, as the rainy season floods the area and maize can handle it more than the potatoes.
After our time with the farmers, we drove to one of the largest processing facilities in Rwanda. It was there that we met the CEO and owner of the company and he explained how he has grown his business over the years and how he prides himself on having a good relationship with farmers and making sure the products he uses come from the local fields. His company processes passion fruit juice, strawberry juice, pele (hot pepper sauce), banana beer and wine, yogurt, grape wine and breads. He specializes in taking orange sweet potatoes and processing them into bread similar to a donut. Following our meeting and sharing our stories of farmers with him, we traveled to the plant where we saw the processing of breads and how they are packaged. We also were able to share some animal science knowledge, as we toured his small farm where he raised swine, rabbits and geese, which he then shared with the farmers. He also has testing plots with cabbage seeds, onions and sweet potatoes, where he takes the seeds from ISAR or other science facilities and tests them in the local soil to see how they perform.
Our last stop of the day ended up being an extremely educational one. We met 25 women on a hillside to take part in their meeting and feedback group time. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) uses these meetings to identify the role they can play in solutions to problems. We were able to take part and share what we observed and knew from what we do in America and they were able to share their concerns, struggles and successes. We learned they wish they had more training so that all the women knew how to use the new planting techniques, new technologies and seed varieties etc. They also would love to have a way to have a cooperative with tools for processing so they could process the sweet potatoes themselves and make more of a profit. It was a great way to end the time we had in the field with farmers, and we are excited to share with CRS our thoughts about improving the quality of techniques used to aid farmers.