The potato came with German soldiers and Belgian missionaries to Rwanda in the early 20th century. Today, ibirayi - derived from uburayi ("that which comes from Europe") - are the country's second most important crop after plantains and, in the sub-Saharan region, Rwanda is the third largest potato producer.
Since 1961, Rwanda's potato output has risen from less than 100 000 tonnes to a 1.3 million tonnes in 2005. The harvest in 2007 was only slightly smaller. Potatoes grow well in several parts of country - mainly above elevations of 1800 m - and some areas grow two crops a year. Most of potato sector consists of small family farms that intercrop potato with beans and maize, and yields average almost 10 tonnes per hectare.
The potato underpins Rwanda's food security. Annual consumption is a very high 125 kg per person, making potato the country's second most important source of calorie intake after cassava.
Currently, Rwanda has over 70,000 potato farmers grouped in 30 cooperatives that produce over 19, 000 tonnes monthly during the harvesting season.
Common potato varieties grown in Rwanda include: Kinigi, Kirundo, Mabondo, Cruza and Sangema and many others.