Drocella Yankulije is an Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato Farmer in Rwanda. This is her story.

My name is Drocella Yankulije. I am an orange-fleshed sweetpoato farmer and supplier and the founder of a youth group working on sweetpotato farming here in Rwanda.

I started farming orange-fleshed sweetpotato, or OFSP, in September of 2011. That year I received OFSP vines through the CIP-led SASHA project (Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa). Receiving the planting material made me very interested in OFSP farming. I liked that it was different from the traditional sweetpotato crop that was available here. I decided to plant and cultivate the vines to see what it would produce.

I then set up a youth group here. Many of the members are orphans, and all are from the local area. I had the idea to get the youth participating in farming as a way to help them. There were many young people in this area who had nothing to do, and they had no support or money. As I had started farming OFSP and was benefiting from it, I thought that it could have a wider impact. I explained to them how I had benefited from growing sweetpotato. I explained that they could be a part of this and they could invest their time and energy in farming with me.

We distributed OFSP vines to each member and then appointed a steering committee to follow up with each member. We wanted to make sure that each person was planting and taking good care of their vines and to provide support if needed.

The members started growing OFSP successfully. Over a period of time, the members multiplied vines in their small plots and they started extending the space in which they were growing OFSP and moving to larger plots of land.

The members have now started reaping the benefits. They started to make a little money and to be able to pay their school fees, or pay for health insurance for themselves and their siblings. Now some members are producing regular income from OFSP farming.

The OFSP roots are admired in the village because of their colour and because they are sweet, have nutritional benefits and are rich in vitamins.

We grow a variety of OFSP here called Gihingumukungu. We prefer it because it has a very high yield and very large roots compared to other varieties. It is also very soft which makes it great for baking mandazi and bread. In terms of taste, we like Terimbere. The roots are very sweet and our children like them because of the high dry matter content and the sweetness.

The first market that we have for OFSP is our neighbors – they to come to our farms and we harvest small amounts of OFSP and sell to them. The second market we have is the local market. Anytime that we need a small amount of money, we harvest just one or two baskets of sweetpotato from the farm and we take them to the local market to sell.

The third market that we have is selling roots to the Nyirangarama bakery here in Rwanda that makes Akarabo OFSP biscuits and other products. We supply OFSP roots to the factory every Monday and Thursday. This means that we have a regular demand for the OFSP roots. We are selling each kilogram at about 150 Rwanda Francs, and since we sell to the factory twice a week, we have regular income, which is great.

Another source of income for us is the OFSP vines. Many organisations like CARITAS come to us to buy vines because they have beneficiaries who are suffering from malnutrition. They know that OFSP is a weapon to fight malnutrition. We sell 1kg of vines for 300 Rwanda Francs – double what we get from roots.

This sweet potato storage facility has helped us in a variety of ways. Before we had the storage facility would have mature OFSP roots in the field but we could not harvest it all as we could not sell it all in one day.

With the storage unit we can now store the roots for up to 6-7 months. That means we no longer have that problem of the roots going bad. Rwanda is a small country so we need to manage well the small areas that we have to grow sweetpotato and also other crops like beans. Now we can use the entire land we have to grow sweetpotato, and then harvest them all and put them into storage, and move on to another crop. We also notice that the sweetness of some of the varieties increases a few days after harvesting, so this is nice as well.

It is very encouraging to us that we have this great crop that we can make money from now and in the future, and through which we can improve our lives. For us, we hope in the future that we can expand our land so that we can produce enough OFSP for the demand that we have.

Scaling up Sweetpotato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) is a five-year partnership (2013-2018) coordinated by the International Potato Center (CIP) and financed by the UK Department for International Development to spread the nutrition benefits of biofortified OFSP to more farmers. The program aims to reach 1.2 million households with children under 5 years across four countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Rwanda through mutually-reinforcing incentives to increase adoption of OFSP, consumption of Vitamin-A-rich foods, and diversification of OFSP utilization.