• Women drink like our fathers and do not cook like our mothers: deconstructing leisure activities in rural-urban Kenya

    By Eileen Nchanji Being in Kenya for barely three months, I was still grasping with the different ways in which gender plays out in the office and country I will…

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  • The Kenya Academic Year of the Bean

    On a Thursday afternoon, a group of 38 students of Mwireri Secondary School, Mweiga Nyeri are busy in school farm with their agriculture and head teacher, Mr. George Murage,…

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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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  • Transforming agriculture for better incomes and diets in Africa

    Citation PABRA. 2017. Transforming agriculture for better incomes and diets…

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  • Scaling success: leading change with the Syngenta Foundation

    The catalyst for change came from catastrophe in Kenya, when farmers in the western part of the country lost their maize harvest to disease in 2012. At that time, Jacinta Majimbo, a bean farmer from Bungoma district in Western Kenya, could never be sure what her harvest might yield. Without access to quality seed, she often ended up with plants that only had a few pods.Then she discovered bean KK-8. This large red mottled bean is now available in clear packaging with labelled credentials. She knows exactly what she’s buying: an early-maturing seed that’s resistant to root rot; cooks quickly and is high-yielding.For Jacinta, the advantages of harvesting an additional 35 kilograms of beans each season are obvious. “It provides more food, and I can sell some to pay for school fees and other expenses,” she says. “KK-8 has made a big difference.” Yet until a few years ago, she had never heard of it – or been able to find it at the market. Taking better seeds to scale During the time that Kenya’s maize was hit by disease, Jonathan Mayer, joint-owner of Bubayi Products Ltd – a family-run seed business in Kenya’s North Rift region – saw a big gap in the market to provide seeds of alternative crops. “I saw what disease was doing to maize. It was wiping out entire harvests. Farmers needed access to alternative crops that weren’t available at their local agro-dealer,” he said. Bubayi had the necessary infrastructure, land and skills to produce “quality seed” of a sufficiently high standard for sale to farmers. And unlike other companies, they were also willing to take the risk and invest their own money. Joining forces with One Acre Fund – with a ready market of 167,000 potential customers with a growing interest in bean seed – they took the risk. Tapping the emerging market Bubayi, One Acre Fund and the Kenyan Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization formed a public-private partnership, supported by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, to make KK-8 and other improved beans available to farmers. Led by KALRO, in partnership with CIAT through the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance, it brought together seed companies, individual seed entrepreneurs, bean traders and processors in Kenya.As explains CIAT’s Jean-Claude Rubyogo, a seed systems specialist and member of the PABRA network: “The private sector has the infrastructure and investment to really increase bean production. Through partnerships, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in seed availability and accessibility across Africa.” Dr. Reuben Otsyula, from KALRO’s research station in Kakamega, partnered with Bubayi to produce breeder seeds – a necessity in bean seed systems. He provided 80 grams of another high-performing bean, CAL194, to Bubayi Seed Company in late 2014. Two years later, there are 7,550kg of breeder seeds in bags waiting to be sold. “That’s the power of the private sector,” said Rubyogo. “The partnerships have transformed bean markets in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya – successes which can be replicated in other countries,” said George Osure, Regional Director for the SFSA in East Africa. “The partnerships have transformed bean markets in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya – successes which can be replicated in other countries.” George OsureRegional Director, Syngenta Foundation in East Africa Market-driven demand: listening to the consumer Improved bean varieties are now commercially available, through licensing of released varieties to private companies. This model has also sped up improved seed releases in other countries, through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), for example. A formal process of release documentation in catalogues, for instance, means that iron-biofortified beans previously released in Rwanda, did not need to go through rigorous variety registration procedures all over again when they were released in Burundi. The return on investment speaks for itself: a US$1 million donor investment has already generated more than US$3 million in improved seed revenues. A total of 146,000 farmers in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya now have access to improved bean varieties – on average, 15kg per farmer. This is estimated to bring in a potential income of US$248 per farm in each country. Farmers like Jacinta are realizing that with a minimal investment in higher quality, certified seeds they can triple their yields and avoid disappointment at harvest. Photo credits: Jean-Claude Rubyogo Call to Action: Further investment is required to scale this approach in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia to register varieties and issue licences translating into royalties with private companies from 2017. Policy makers need to invest in improved cross-country cataloguing standards, to spur cross-border trade and speed up new varieties releases, making business more attractive as economies of scale come into play. Investment by the private sector in the long-term is required to ensure licenses stay relevant for smallholder farmers and benefit them.

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  • The Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) wrapped up its joint steering committee planning workshop, Nairobi, Kenya earlier this month, January 20th – February 2nd

    The workshop brought together more than 100 participants from across Africa, to plan the next phase of their research activities. Novel approaches to leverage better beans for more people…

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  • The world without beans: opinion piece

    By Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) This opinion piece was first published by the Pan-African Media Alliance for Climate Change…

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