• Building partnerships to fight malnutrition

    In spite of its fragile state, Burundi saw much progress in nutrition in 2016. A strong partnership between the Ministry of Health (PRONIANUT) and the Ministry of Agriculture (ISABU) has led to 11 farmer cooperatives receiving training on how to produce nutritious bean flour for the market and household consumption. A community crèche has been set up for mothers, accepting 351 children two to five years old. Two community members take turns caring for the children while the other mothers are out farming. A bean-based porridge is prepared for the children at the crèche.  Christella Ndayishimiye started her business TOTOHARA in 2009 with just a few bags of bean flour for friends. Today, she now sells four metric tons of flour a month and is struggling to keep up with demand. Her new product add value to beans, fetching better prices for her and the farmers who supply her business, while also nurturing consumers.  “I saw that older and younger people needed more nutritious food. But the flour sold at the market was not of high quality or  nutritious, so I started making it for my family, neighbors and friends. It was really popular and soon they convinced me to start making it for others as well.” Christella got the idea for making the flour from a training session she attended, facilitated through PABRA. Glancing over at the neat rows of bean flour she has on the shelves of her shop, she reflects on her progress. “Now I have bought a bicycle to transport the bean flour bags to small markets to supply different customers in Bujumbura. My family has relied on the income from this factory – now I can send my children to school and I have also adopted one child. My hope for TOTOHARA is to expand to other countries, so we can even export,”  - she said. What's next Development projects providing free composite flour for pregnant women are distorting the market and research is needed to train others about the benefits of partnering with private sector entrepreneurs like Christella Ndayishimiye. Further dialogue is needed among the agriculture and nutrition sectors to evaluate the sustainability of investments, to ensure a sustainable, food secure, future. Richard Hatungimana works with PABRA through the Institut des Siences Agronomique du Burundi (ISABU), to multiply high quality beans for more farmers in Burundi. Since he started growing high-iron climbing beans in 2012 on just one hectare of land, he has bought another seven hectares. He used the income from the extra yield to reinvest around US$17,000 back into his farm in thelast five years. He now also has livestock and grows other crops on his farm.

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  • More nutritious flour for urban consumers and a better price for farmers

    When Tei Mukunya, Director of Azuri Health, prepared meals for her 112 year old grandmother, she had a realization. "It wasn’t easy to find a good range of nutritious, easily digestible foods that she liked. Most flour was made from  maize, and having a range of egetables and nutritious crops in flour wasn’t a possibility.  - Tei Mukunya, Director of Azuri Health So she and her family, working with women's groups, started making a nutri-porridge flour that contained other nutritious crops like beans and amaranth. "My grandmother really noticed the difference, and felt much better. It showed me that nutritious food can have such a big impact on people’s lives. With experience in marketing, she decided to shift her focus to producing and distributing nutritious flour and dried fruits for urban consumers. "People are busy, and convenient foods are not always nutritious. Our products are aimed at those who want an affordable, healthy product, that doesn’t take much time to prepare.   Since she started her company Azuri Health in 2010, production of dried fruits, sweet potato flour, and bean porridge, has jumped from 300 kilograms to 4 tons a year today. Her products are available across Kenya – 90 percent of her market is major retail outlets, but she also supplies to smaller urban shops. She has her sights set on exporting as well. She’s already received calls from interested buyers, and is in the process of setting upthe rigorous standards required to enter the European market. She’s testing the first of eight solar-powered “bubble” driers to be installed in Kenya and Uganda, as part of a project supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, to fight malnutrition among 50,000 rural and urban consumers.  During harvest time, all too often rain can damage crops as they dry. The driers retain bean quality and commercial value, while retaining all the nutritious qualities before they are turned into a porridge flour.   The project partnership includes the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, supplying farmers with improved, nutritious and higher yielding bean varieties, which Azuri Health will then buy. Farmers are excited by this prospect. Joseph Kamoing, a member of the SATEWA group - an acronym merging the names of three villages - of 500 farmers growing the improved beans, says he can earn almost double the price he is currently earning with local varieties through the new partnership. "With these improved beans, ‘Chelalang’, we can get 7-8 bagsfor beans, compared with 2-3 bags using local bean varieties,    Usually we sell one bag for US$34but Azuri Ltd. have promised US$58. The extra income will help buy fertilizer for next season and pay school fees. As part of the project, scientists will also study malnutrition levels, where families source food, and how much they pay for it. This will generate a deeper understanding of which nutrients are a priority for adding to the porridge and how to best price the product for target consumers.  This work is part of the project “Making Value Chains Work for Food and Nutrition Security of Vulnerable Populations in East Africa” supported by Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). The project is led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in collaboration with the University of Hohenheim (UHOH), University of Göttingen (UGOE), Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Ugandan National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). What's next Further research is needed to investigate consumer behavior, to improve diet choices.  Farmers can benefit from bulking their produce to sell to companies like Azuri Health, but often they are skeptical. Good examples of success like this are needed to deepen trust, and can be used in other areas to improve incomes and nutrition for consumers.

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  • Drought beating beans triple yields

    George Oketch Achola is a farmer on the banks of Lake Victoria, Western Kenya, earns 70 percent of his income from beans. He supplies Lasting Solutions Ltd. with improved bean varieties. He has more than tripled his production using new varieties, which he discovered through PABRA members including the local charity Caritas Internationalis.   "These new beans are drought resilient and higher yielding. George Oketch Achola   Now, from 2 kilograms of seed, he produces 90 kilograms of beans to sell – compared with the 20 kilograms possible with local varieties. He can put more nutritious meals on the table, and invest the profit back into his home and family.

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  • Nutritious meals for cash-strapped and busy mothers launched in Kenya

    Fast-cooking beans and nutritious bean snacks have hit supermarket shelves in Western Kenya. The products target women who may need to prepare meals in a short period of time for the whole family.  The fast-cooking beans have been pre-cooked, and only need to be boiled for 15 minutes. They contain all the nutrition and appearance of regular dry beans and others come in a packet like peanuts and can be eaten right away. Regular dry beans can take around three hours to cook, requiring more firewood or charcoal. Fetching firewood or buying charcoal take up time, energy and money, mostly impacting women and girls, who are in charge of preparing meals and collecting firewood, and who may also have another job.  Developed together with the private sector company Lasting Solutions Ltd., the pre-cooked beans and snacks are labeled “quick-cook” or “ready to eat”, and have been industrially precooked, using water but no preservatives or additives. A team of PABRA researchers tested 47 bean varieties to establish which ones can cook faster while still retaining their taste, color,shortlisting 12.  Joab Ouma, Director of Lasting Solutions, a partner in the development of both products, said:  "This partnership combines knowledge about beans, with the needs of consumers.  When Lasting Solutions reaches full capacity, it expects that ten percent of customers across Kenya who currently buy dry beans, will switch to pre-cooked beans.  Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)’s National Coordinator for Grain Legumes, David Karanja, said the products will also help Kenya plug a 60 percent gap in local consumer demand, while buildingcapacity of local industries to generate income.  "This innovative partnership combines research and private sector expertise to move a product into the market, responding directly to our objective to have impact at scale. These will save women’s time and improve nutrition. What we like about workingwith this type of partnership is that they make products more easily available for low- and middle-income households – especially women.  The products are also good news for farmers like Nancy Adhiambo. Already a bean grower, she struggled to find a good market and price for her beans. Then, through local charity Caritas Internationalis, she found out about two of the 12 varieties sought by Lasting Solutions. The development of precooked beans and bean snack products use the Commodity Corridor approach, which brings together partners in bean production, distribution, and consumption hubs.   The US$2.5 million, three-year project, is funded under the Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund, a program of Canada’s IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The pre-cooked beans project is led by KALRO in Kenya, and in Uganda by NARO, with CIAT through PABRA.

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  • Beans without Borders

    Beans are essential in sub-Saharan Africa. In East Africa alone, they are among the most-traded commodity. Dr. Clare Mukankusi, Regional Bean Breeder My dream has always been to reach the poorest in Africa through science. And now, as a “doctor of plants,” as my children call me, I help regulate the flow of beans between the world’s largest bean genebank in Colombia and many countries in Africa.  Beans are essential in sub-Saharan Africa. In East Africa alone, they are among the most-traded commodity, and a meal is often considered incomplete without them. In many African countries, every woman, with only a very small piece of land, can grow and sell beans, to put a nutritious meal on the table.  Thanks to decades of research, we have already made huge progress in improving beans. They are now more nutritious and affordable, and the plants are more productive and hardy in the face of heat and drought.   But if we’re going to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, we’re going to need to raise the bar even higher. That ’s why the 37,000 accessions at CIAT’s global bean collection in Colombia, and the 3,000 at our genebank in Uganda are at the heart of the work of PABRA to improve beans for the continent.   As a breeder, I rely on genetic diversity to make progress. If one bean variety is lost forever, we might never know how its unique attributes could have helped us – and future generations – tackle specific challenges, especially in light of future threats like weather extremes.

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  • Lessons from field day in Tanzania

    By Jean Claude Rubyogo More than 300 farmers, companies, extension agents and media attended a field day at the Agriculture Seed Agency (ASA) seed farm at Ngaramtoni in Arusha, Tanzania,…

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  • New, improved bean varieties enhance food security and diet diversity in Malawi

    By Enid Katungi Our recent study, conducted to evaluate the performance of PABRA over the last two decades, shows remarkable achievements in terms of productivity and the number of people…

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  • Drought, pests and disease on the rise hit harvests in Zimbabwe

    By Enid Katungi For the past two decades, the Pan-Africa Bean Research alliance (PABRA), has stepped-up efforts in Zimbabwe to help farmers boost their bean production as a pathway to reducing poverty.  This is done with the support of the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC). With the same support, we conducted a nation-wide baseline survey, interviewing 750 bean growing households in 2016.  Our findings show that incidences of drought, pests and disease are on the rise, causing significant yield loss – especially for farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture. Farmers who have access to irrigation are better able to mitigate the effects of drought, by applying more inputs to obtain higher yields. But for those relying on rain-fed agriculture, access to more resilient bean varieties is more urgent than ever. In addition, improved bean seeds need to be used in tandem with fertilizers at optimal rates. High seed prices pose another limiting factor for smallholder farmers, and strategies to reduce the price of seed may include linking community based seed production with formal seed companies, strengthening rural based-seed marketing outlets. Our results show that any innovation including seeds – to be attractive to farmers – should increase bean yields by at least 30 percent under rain-fed, and 10 percent under irrigated conditions. Gender implications: The study also highlights some socioeconomic aspects critical for maximizing impacts. First, use of irrigation in bean production increases demand for labor. Women are more likely to bear the burden of unpaid labor, while men benefit from increased demand for hired labor. Although women mostly influence decisions around bean production, men still control various aspects of sale. Women also decide what is put on the family table for food – but the research shows that while families may cultivate beans, 33 percent of households eat beans only once a week, compared to 4.6 times a week by food secure households. These outcomes of the report urge that complementary interventions – in addition to improved bean varieties – are necessary. Lessons learned… Farmers are generally satisfied with the bean market traits but a significant number of them would prefer to access new varieties that are improved in their production traits to cope with increase in production constraints. From this study, we have learnt that private seed companies play an important role in variety diffusion in Zimbabwe, but their marketed varieties cannot be easily identified by farmers. Thus knowledge management systems should consider integrating actors including farmers to facilitate the closing of this knowledge gap. As the new technologies are disseminated to farmers, there is also need to monitor how gender influences uptake as well as changes in gender roles and control over beans. Photo credit: Neil Palmer / CIAT  

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  • Derese Eshete, Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute, Ethiopia

    As a senior researcher, Derese Eshete has spent his career with one goal in mind: to improve the living conditions of the farmers he believes he is working for. Having worked on many crops previously, including the country’s “super-grain” teff, he has settled on beans for now. At his desk, looking out onto several fields of the rural Arsi-Negele sub-station in southeast Ethiopia, his dedication is obvious, as he describes the painstaking efforts he and his team go through, to test, evaluate and analyze bean seeds to ensure they help smallholder farmers improve their lives. “As I’m an Ethiopian, I like our farmers to have a very nice income – and they are eager to plant the white pea beans if they can get seed,” he explains. That, in fact, is the major challenge. While local bean varieties are in large supply, improved beans which can deliver higher yields, while being resilient to increasing swathes of pests and diseases and drought – especially with the onset of climate change – are harder to come by.  Walking through the rows of different bean varieties at the research station, Eshete makes notes on a large clipboard detailing his latest observations, for example, the effects of recent weather, or damage caused by pests or diseases. Eshete’s grandson runs behind his white lab coat, watching him work. “We are selecting varieties which resist disease, those which are early maturing – the ones which perform better,” he explains. After that, we have state farms or seed growers here in Ethiopia. These growers can multiply the beans in a huge area – then they will distribute to our farmers. The beans will undergo more rigorous tests for drought resilience, disease resistance and canning quality, in the local context. The best varieties are whittled down over years. This process of improving, multiplying and disseminating beans is part of a seed system delivering improved beans to farmers on a much larger scale than has been possible in the past. Part of this success is due to relationships built over decades between researchers, private sector business and other partners – including farmers, he says.

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  • Banking on a Sustainable Future: From one diverse continent to another

    Common beans evolved in often extreme environments. They offer important opportunities for breeders across Africa to breed beans in varied conditions – from humid highland environments, to near-arid environments with high temperatures and drought. ThePhaseolus genus has what it takes to confront problems that for years we thought to be intractable. Dr. Steve Beebe, CIAT's Bean Program Leader   PABRA’s bean breeding programs are closely integrated with CIAT’s program at its headquarters in Cali, Colombia, which hosts the largest Phaseolus bean genebank in the world, containing over 37,000 bean types. Beans with high iron, resistance to diseases such as root rots, heat tolerance, drought tolerance, tolerance to soil problems, and insect resilience, are uniquely bred in Colombia, or made available to PABRA’s partners. This represents huge potential: for example, using Phaseolus coccineus, the scarlet runner bean, researchers in Rwanda continue tobreed beans with even higher levels of acid soil tolerance of up to pH 4 – which could dramatically improve yields in environments in western Rwanda, northern Zambia, and other countries. Beans stored in the genebank show potential for unique disease resistance that has not yet been tapped in Africa. Reports suggest that some bean species may carry resistance to the most destructive pest of bean in Africa - bean stem maggot. If beans resilient to bean stem maggot could be released in Africa, that would be a major step forward, making beans more profitable for farmers.  

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