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YPARD and YEAN Rwanda Young Social Media Reporters at the 2019 APA Conference

Social media has grown tremendously in the last few years and it has enabled the spreading of information to a wider public. Now a powerful tool connects communities regardless of the location.

The Young Engagement in Agriculture Network (YEAN) and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) have together accumulated experience in managing and coordinating different social media reporting projects for several conferences in different agriculture-related topics targeting different audience.

During the African Potato Association (APA) 11th triennial conference 2019 organized by the International Potato Center (CIP) and the Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) held at the Marriott Hotel Kigali from 25th – 29th August 2019. YEAN in collaboration with YPARD powered by the International Potato Center (CIP) Rwanda, deployed a team of 6 young social media reporters to cover the conference and share its content with social media users outside and inside the conference’s venue. social media reporting is two-way communication channels that enable interaction with “outsiders” by soliciting their offsite participation in the onsite presentations and discussions before, during and after the conference, as well as stimulating discussions about the topics covered.

The team covered the conference according to the schedule and it was an interactive performance from the welcoming cocktail, main sessions, discussion panels, parallel discussions to the field visits held on the last day of the conference. It was an amazing experience sharing with the world the latest advances in potato and sweet potato value chain in Africa.

In five days of the conference, the hashtags #APARwanda2019 of the event reached over 2,4 million impressions on Twitter. YEAN & YPARD team of social media reporters enjoyed and performed outstandingly and professionally. It was a great time for the social media reporters to meet the world of potato and sweet potato and spread the message all over social media highlighting the best and latest advances in potato and sweet potato industry.

The theme of the conference was “Leveraging the contribution of potato and sweet potato for sustainable nutritious food systems”. Under this theme, there were a number of topics that were covered during the conference mainly focusing on improving potato and sweet potato seed system, increasing the yield, insuring safe diets in the changing world, youth and women engagement in potato and sweet potato value chain, post-harvesting and processing technologies, market linkage and ICT solutions for agriculture.

The conference had a number of key speakers: Dr. Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Rwandan Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources highlighted that they will keep working together to promote value chain not only in research but the whole value chain to make sure that the two value chains are given the value they deserve not only in agriculture but also in food systems. The Deputy Director-General of CIP Dr. OScar Ortiz mentioned that CIP is continuously working on developing new potato and sweet potato clones and the breeding hub was decentralized in East Africa for developing varieties that are more adaptive to Africa’s conditions. He added that they are working tirelessly to improve the quality of the potato by increasing critical nutrients content like Iron, Zinc and Vitamin A. Dr. Kirimi Sindi the Rwanda country manager and value chain Expert at CIP argued that many sub-Saharan countries do not have a potato or sweet potato policy and these crops are not given a priority. He highlighted that there are many challenges including seed system, fertilizer use and lack of collective action in fighting for potato value chain policy instauration and implementation.

Scientists from all over the world working on potato and sweet potato mainly from International Potato Center and other research institutions exposed on these above-mentioned topics to a public of more than 300 participants from Africa, and African potato and sweet potato value chain partners. Farmers, the World Potato Congress members, scientists, and business people exchanged ideas on what can be done to explore the potential of potato and sweet potato in feeding Africa as a continent with most of the world’s arable land and food insecurity.

The last day of the conference was dedicated to field trips for participants to experience what is being done at different stages of potato and sweet potato value chain in Rwanda. This trips included those to the Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) value chain in Northern province, Sina Gerard Urwibutso enterprise, Rwanda Agriculture Board Musanze Station, Horizon SOPYRWA Potato Greenhouse, Hollanda Fair Foods; a potato processing plant, Kamonyi sweet potato roadside market, Rwanda Agriculture Board Rubona Station, BRAMIN; a large scale farm for cereal and potato production.

As a young professional and founder of Young Engagement in Agriculture Network (YEAN), I further experienced the potential of youth in developing viable solutions to strengthen not only potato and sweet potato value chains but also other potential crops that can tackle both Hunger and malnutrition in Africa. As a coordinator of this reporting project who was there not just for reporting but as young professional responsible and concerned about the future of African agriculture, I learnt that if we have to make agriculture a profession that creates decent lifestyle and employment to youth and the community, there is a huge need to make it attractive and professional, and aim at a collaborative action that leaves no one behind. Any of our crops can make a huge difference if we have such associations promoting a single crop value chain. Research and extension organizations need to leverage youth skills and further empower them to lead agriculture and food systems revolution in Africa.

Malawi was voted and officially announced as the next hosts of the APA Conference.

Photo credit: African Potato Association