Alexander van Beuningen en Hermann Schilt

Aeres University AS (before Vilentum faculty CAH) started in collaboration with Hogeschool Utrecht (HU) and MDF consultancy a project with INES University in Musanza Rwanda.

From 9 to 14th of November Alexander van Beuningen (teacher from faculty Almere) and Hermann Schilt (teacher from Aeres University AS Dronten) visited the potato project in Rwanda for explanation and how to use detection techniques for plant diseases. This project started in January 2013, funded by Nuffic and in cooperation with HU University of Applied Sciences and MDF training and consultancy company from Ede. 

Rwanda is one of the smaller African countries, half the size of the Netherlands in square meters, with 12 million inhabitants. Located just below the equator and sometimes called: “land of thousand hills”. Cooperation between the INES University in Musanza and Aeres University AS (before CAH Vilentum) has resulted in the start of healthy seed potatoes of local breed.

The potato is important in the food industry in Rwanda. Even though Rwanda has a favourable climate, that makes it possible to cultivate potatoes 3 times a year, it is not yet self-sufficient for this crop. This is caused by the cultivation, low quality of seed potatoes and lack of practical knowledge about potato diseases.

To introduce INES students with applied research the project “Increasing food security through applied sciences at INES” has been initiated. Students usually receive a theoretical education without applying the research in the field. For the detection of viruses, mold and bacterial diseases a good sample is of extreme relevance, which is why teachers and students had to go into the field to search, make good samples, register and transport them correctly. Back in the lab of the university the protocol has been completed for reprocessing, to get the right material for detection.

Detection is done through ELISA and PCR testing. Equipment is present at INES, but the materials and protocols for testing potato diseases is not. These have been purchased locally or brought from the Netherlands. For some steps the teachers from the Netherlands had to improvise, since the equipment didn’t always match each other. This made it difficult, but also a lot of fun to use your creativity. At the end of the week, the results of the tests were known and could be matched with the observations.

Key question: How to interpret the data? This all depends on local circumstances. It is fascinating to translate the results from a Dutch perspective to local conditions.

Thursday end of the afternoon, all 13 participants received an Aeres University AS (before faculty CAH Vilentum) Certificate by the vice-rector and the event was celebrated with a small reception. A happy end of a successful mission.